eno wrote: ↑
Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:09 pm
From what I remember reading about the vihuela vs lute history:
Lute developed from oud that Arabs brought to Europe when they invaded Spain. Lute spread across Europe and became very popular. However, Spanish people did not like lute because they resisted any Arabic cultural influence, so vihuela was developed in Spain and grew in popularity as a sort of "Spanish-national" plucked string instrument alternative to lute. Vihuela, although quite different in construction and sound, is definitely a predecessor of baroque and later classical guitar.
Sorry but I have been unable to forget this. I like a nice clear statement but would love some supporting argument.
I know the statement for the vihuela's ancestral status has been made more than once, and wikipedia quoted by celestemcc. Here are my arguments against;
- partly, its a matter of definitions of lineage; do we mean the physical building of the instrument, the musician's playing and composing for it, the general music lover's perception ... or a mixture of all? Personally I go with the first almost entirely, the second to a small degree.
- lute and cousin vihuela were expensive high-status instruments espoused largely by the better off folks, who feature in history. The earliest guitars seem to have been low-status, cheap to make and string and were played by the kind of folks whose lives left little record. But it seems to me that there is a continuous thread of guitar making and playing that starts well before the lute and vihuela artistic hegemony arose, and in the case of vihuela, continued well after it, and supplanted it in the role of occasional visitor to the courts of the well-off.
In what ways might
the vihuela have infused itself into the contemporaneous guitar? People like Mudarra played and composed for both, and the technique used, and the tablature notation, was sufficiently similar that for a musician there was little barrier to moving between the two. (Robert De Visee made a similar move between the lute family and the 5 course guitar a century later) There are some vihuela-like pieces for guitar in this early stage, but the two instruments remained very different, not least in the crucial matter of tuning - the guitar had 4 courses D G B E and the vihuela the same as the renaissance lute, the major 3rd being between courses 4 and 3, rather than 3 and 2. The fact that this division remained, and it took about two centuries for the guitar to reach a sixth course, suggests to me that any superficial infusion of building and playing techniques were, so to speak, a non-essential addition of DNA that did not change the species.
Did any guitar maker or player (or listener) in the decades after the demise of the vihuela, ever
think back to that instrument with any awareness? I would doubt it, for sure in France, Italy etc where they probably had no idea it ever existed. And while it does not in itself mean that there was no lasting impact or influence it suggests strongly that just as guitars rubbed along with lutes, theorbos etc (including as continuo partners) without 'interbreeding', so with the vihuela and the guitars in Spain.
I would however say that there is one respect in which the vihuela, along with the renaissance lute, is a predecessor, albeit one without an actual, so to speak physical link. The early guitars were pretty much treble instruments, with no bass range and very limited scope for counterpoint and proper voice leading and chord inversions etc. Six courses gives you both a bass range and enough scope to do the 'right thing' compositionally - at least most of the time! I think that while probably nobody was actually consciously thinking 'wouldn't it be cool to have a practical, cheap and easy enough to manage thing that would play proper music, all we need is some more strings'
the development eventually of the modern tuning and all that goes with it was an answer to the same need, that Mudarra, Francesco and co met back in 1530 something, but that kinda vanished until reappearing in c 1800.