They say love exist (Dicen que hay amor)
Tonos humanos from Cancionero de Mallorca and others manuscripts (17th. century)
The 17th century was a very dark century for the peninsular kingdoms. Famine, epidemics, and all kinds of miseries seized upon a diminishing and very fragmented population. In spite of the continuous social, economical and epistemological crisis and of the imposition of an ideology of domination, Spanish culture had flashes of brilliance. And music was a very important part of that culture, particularly vocal music. It was a vehicle of expression for restrained passions, a music that, at times, sang to disillusionment and deception of the senses, just like the tono that lends its title to this recording.
Theatre was accessible to all social classes, and it provided both a relief from and a vehicle for the transmission of the prevailing value-system. Music played a very important role. Theatre performances, which spread throughout the land, were an excellent way for the spreading and circulation of music, both in vocal (tonos) and instrumental (sones) forms. Late in the 17th century, writing tonos for the stage was similar to making a record. If a comedia or zarzuela was a success, the most outstanding tonos would be copied on the most exquisite manuscripts, taught by the most renowned maestros de tonos, and performed by the best músicas de cuerdas at the most exclusive soirees.
In 1666, after El Planeta, who was very fond of theatre and actresses, passed away theatre performances were banished. Two years later, the reopening of the corrales (theatrical courtyards) was possible due to an established theatre network, built up in the former decades, with companies, authors and entrepreneurs wishing to resume their activity and an audience eager for entertainment after such a long period of mourning. In spite of the moralists’ zeal to put an end to theatre and comedies, to see plays at the corrales was the main source of entertainment for all social classes. Spanish society, isolated as it was from all sense of progress and immersed in the realm of metaphysical superstition, would have collapsed without the sweet poison that theatre and music provided.
The Tonos selected for this recording coincide with this period, in which theatre performances enjoyed a new boost under the rule of El Hechizado. While only five tonos can be traced back directly to theatrical sources, the relationship that the rest have with stage performances is quite clear. The sources from which these tonos have been retrieved reflect, in any case, a moment in which music had ceased to be composed for the stage and had become chamber music. Both contexts were interconnected. In the same way a tono from La Púrpura de la Rosa might work as a matrix, resulting even in instrumental variations, tonos originally created as private entertainment could appear in the texts of comedias, bailes or entremeses.
To go into what caused the lack of Spanish vocal music printed material, if we compare it to the numerous publications printed in Italy that contained accompanied monody, is beyond the goals of this text. However, it is worth mentioning that political, social, economic and cultural factors had made Spanish society particularly stagnant and its structures chronically weak, and, to be sure, this situation did not favour an interest into music printing. But music had other, informal distribution channels, making it possible to circumvent the monetary risks that printing entailed. Currently, an important number of manuscripts, single sheets and song collections remain that have brought to us some of the best examples of the art of the tono humano.
The extant song collections that belong to the first half of the century only contain polyphonic tonos, but there are also letras and romances that can be sung with guitar accompaniment using notation of strummed chords, with coincidences in this repertory. There are also abundant literary references to the practice of solo singing in all social circles. The song collections and sources from the last third of the century already show the growth and maturity, as well as the spread, of the tono for the solo voice, which was called solo humano from that moment onwards.