THE MARK OF ZORRO with a score of Spanish Renaissance and Native American music by HESPERUS: Tina Chancey, Grant Herreid, Priscilla Herreid & Nell Snaidas, with Andes Manta, Steve Bloom, Joe McCarthy & Scott Reiss.
Silent films were never meant to be silent; they were intended to be performed with musical accompaniment. During the current silent film revival, musicians are approaching that challenge in a number of creative ways. Some are finding and reconstructing the original music written for a film when it was first produced. Others are writing their own scores, in every style from atonal music to jazz. More than a few old theaters have renovated their mammoth theater organs, and keyboard players improvise soundtracks today as they did in the 20s.
HESPERUS is doing something different. We have crafted a soundtrack of music centered upon the time and place the film was set, early 19th century California, and perform the music on copies of period instruments. Actually, we’ve expanded our parameters to include popular tunes from renaissance Spanish guitar publications and music gleaned from Spanish Colonial sources.
We use composed pieces in three and four parts, monophonic (one line) melodies, tunes we’ve transcribed from field recordings of people singing the song on their front porch, and improvisation. We often have a theme for each character or for a particular mood, and we transform that tune according to the developments in the film.
Zorro was the invention of Johnston McCulley; he one of the minor characters in McCulley’s fictional swashbuckler, ‘The Curse of Capistrano,’ published as a serial in 1919. Douglas Fairbanks read the novella on his honeymoon and decided to change his image as a drawing room roué by impersonating the wily outlaw. His writers elevated Zorro to a main character and the rest is history.
McCulley set Curse in 1846, perhaps not realizing that the Mexico (and by extenson California) had won its independence from Spain in 1921. No matter, his use of the imaginal past encourages us to go a bit farther afield when choosing music with the same flair and verve as the film’s action.
When selecting music to accompany a film, the first goal is naturally to reinforce the mood of each scene. Music can add pacing, drama, or irony, foreshadow tragedy or anticipate rescue. We believe that listening to period music really makes the film come alive, and hope you feel the same way.
Although politically independent by 1821, Baja California and Mexico retained close musical ties to Spain. This was demonstrated by a longstanding interest in the guitar and its idiomatic repertoire of dance music improvised over repeating bass patterns like the Romanesca, Folia, Passamezzo, Canario and Jacara.
In additional to these shorter patterns, composers such as Santiago de Murcia and Gaspar Sanz made arrangements of multi-phrase chord patterns that generated their own characteristic melodies and became identified as discreet pieces such as the Aria della Gran Duca, Marizápalos, Spagnoletta and Pavan de Spagna. We use all of these ostinato pieces as improvisation vehicles, which was certainly one of their most common functions as confirmed by our one of our earliest sources, the ‘Tratado’ of Diego Ortiz from 1553.
The villancico (with a form Abba:ll) was also enormously popular in the New World, where Spanish, French, Italian and Franco-Flemish music was heard in large cathedrals and remote village churches alike starting in the 16th century. We have programmed Spanish villancicos by Juan del Encina, ‘Fata la Parte’ and ‘Oy Comamos,’ as well as those written by Spanish composers in New Spain, ‘Oygan una Xacarilla’ by Rafael Castellanos, and ‘Tarara’ by Antonio de Salazar.
The rest of our New World music comes from a variety of sources. Jesuit and Dominican missionaries translating Christian devotional texts into indigenous languages such as ‘Duam Tumn’, the Catholic act of contrition arranged in Chilidugu dialect. ‘Hanacpachap’ is an early Mexican religious processional transcribed in transliterated Quechua by Spanish monk Juan Perez de Bocanegra in 1631.
In addition, we have transcribed field recordings of early 20th century New World musicians playing flute tunes and singing traditional ballads and religious hymns (Inca flute tune, ‘Chunchu music,’ ‘Don Gato’ and ‘Buenas dias Paloma Blanca’), on the theory that traditions were slow to change and pieces handed down throughout the generations retain their initial character.
Scott Reiss and I owe a great debt, as many do, to Robert Murrell Stevenson, a pioneering researcher in Spanish Colonial and Native American music; we’d also like to thank Alfred Lemmon who graciously made his own private music library available to us when we were first exploring this genre in 1985.
SPANISH GROUNDS AND CHORD PATTERNS
Aria della Gran Duca/Gasparo Zanetti 1645
Canarios/Various 17th c. sources
Folias Gallegas/Santiago de Muria c. 1730, arr. Herreid
Jacara/Various 17th c. sources
Los Impossibles/Santiago de Murcia
Recercadas/Diego Ortiz 1553
Spagnoletta/After Gaspar Sanz 1674
Pavan de Spagna/Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
Propignan del Mayor/Cancionero del Palacio 16th c.
Tarantella/17th c. Spain
Fata la parte/Juan del Encina (1468-1530)
Oy comamos/Juan del Encina
Oygan una Xacarilla /Rafael Castellanos (18th c.)
Tarara/Antonio de Salazar (1650-1715)
Rodrigo Martinez/Cancionero del Palacio
NEW WORLD MUSIC
Buenas Dias Paloma Blanca/Alabado, New Mexico
Chunchu music/Traditional, Qu’eros, Peru
Don Gato/Traditional, Qu’eros, Peru
Duam tumn/Chile 1722
Esa Noche yo Baila/17th c. Bolivia
Hanacpachap/Juan Perez de Bocanegra, ed. 1631
Inca flute tune/Apurimac, Peru
Tonada la Donosa/Traditional Mexico
Zorro Acts Out