The Metamorphosis of a Falseta: Part Two

First published in the Journal of Flamenco Artistry and translated into English by Greg Case.

We saw last time by means of an example taken from Sabicas’ soleá, how a falseta, after it’s initial composition, can exist and evolve independently of the author. The falseta receives a new life when it is taken up by other guitarist. After we examined the original by Sabicas, we studied Rafael Riqueni’s interpretation. Let’s glance through some other variations, here under the fingers of two more outstanding figures of this generation: Gerardo Nunez and Vincente Amigo.

Example 1 is Gerardo Núñez version:



What fireworks! We leave the lower part of the finger board and begin to move away from the initial text. The pattern changes as well: Dm, C7, F7, Em. In addition, here the thumb technique utilizing up and down strokes is changed to thumb-index alternation on two different strings for a new type of sound. What does it matter? It is still basically the same falseta. Beyond the apparent adjustments, the structure and the idea remains unchanged: a rasgueado development is replaced by a successive wave effect above which the melodic lines holds for one or two beats.

Núñez is a spectacular virtuoso guitarist. His way of processing material gives it clear definition: the left hand stretching five frets (7th and 8th beats of the compas) and a one octave modulation (7th and 8th beats again). The resulting effect is unusually striking.

Example 2 is Vicente Amigo’s version:


We come back to the lower part of the finger board, but moving away from the initial form. Can we recognize the original falseta? Yes, surely. But now the thumb-index alternating appears in only one place, and the repeated notes (here with down strokes) no longer coincide with the inflection part of the melody. As for the chord pattern, it is filled in a bit more: F7, Fm/C7, Fm, Em. However, this falseta is really inspired by the original Sabicas: we find the same “pulsation”, the same construction, the same wave movement. Amigo’s style is less mannered than Riqueni, and despite equal density, we could say a bit “bolder” than Nunez. Vicente Amigo, while diverging from Sabicas, has a most flamenco effect with his forceful bass line, and his development of the final E chord really swings. In a word, Amigos style is certainly elaborate, but also very eloquent – for it is natural.

Having reached the end of this review, we may feel a bit frustrated thinking about what could have been done by Paco de Lucia, Tomatito and many others, they had been interested in developing this falseta. But in conclusion two thing are certain: First, it is not a surprise that a common composition method is in starting with a existing theme and “remodelling” it is one’s own way. Second, as we can see, an old variation is never obsolete: our examples prove that at any time it can be revised and updated. This relates to the idea of modernity. We can even extend this matter to other fields of the Flamenco Art – which is continually evolving form.