Samuel Diz: Bal y Gay is an essential figure in both Galician and international 20th century music

Hai unhas semanas estiveches en Cork falando da figura de Bal y Gay e da súa importancia para a Xeración do 27. Podes falarnos un pouco de quen era Bal y Gay e por que foi importante para o desenvolvemento musical dese grupo de intelectuais?

A few weeks ago you were in Cork talking about Galician composer Bal y Gay and his importance for the Spanish Generation of 27. Could you tell us who Bal y Gay was and why he was relevant for the group’s musical development?

Nado en Lugo en 1905, Jesús Bal y Gay é un dos nomes propios da música galega e universal do século XX. Viviu en segundo plano lugares e acontecementos que todos coñecemos. Digo en segundo plano xa que non atopamos o seu nome habitualmente nos libros, pero se rascamos entre líneas, sempre estaba aí. Foi estudar a Madrid, onde tivo unha posición privilexiada na Residencia de Estudiantes. Organizou concertos e entablou amizade con Manuel de Falla ou Federico García Lorca, cos que compartiu a súa inquedanza pola nova música, así como a popular e a antiga. Alí tamén coñeceu a súa dona e compañeira de viaxe, a pianista Rosita García Ascot.

Despois de tres anos de lectorado en Cambridge, en 1938 o matrimonio comeza un longo exilio en México. O desenvolvemento de Bal no país azteca é poliédrico: continúa coas labores de crítica musical e xornalística, compaxina as investigacións e publicacións musicolóxicas coa composición musical, e xunto a Rosita funda a galería Diana (na que comeza a ser recoñecida a pintora surrealista Remedios Varo). Igualmente, Igor Stravinsky non dubida en cartear ao matrimonio cando visita DF, e xa para o anecdotario, os seus sobriños descubren paulatinamente os primeiros borradores de Cien años de soledad, a quen García Márquez lles dedica a novela -Jomí García Ascot e María Luisa Elío-. A súa coda vital comeza en 1965 co regreso ás (des)coñecidas rúas dun novo Madrid.

Born in Lugo in 1905, Jesús Bal y Gay is an essential figure in both Galician and international 20th century music. He was in the background of places and events well known by all of us. And I say in the background because we don’t generally see his name in books, but if we scratch the surface, he is always there. He studied in Madrid, where he had a privileged position in the Residencia de Estudiantes. He organised concerts and became friends with people like Manuel de Falla or Federico García Lorca, with whom he shared his interest for new, popular and early music. There he also met his wife and travel companion, pianist Rosita García Ascot.

After three years of assistantship in the University of Cambridge, the couple began a long exile in Mexico in 1938. The development of Bal y Gay in the Aztec country is polyhedral: he continues his work as a journalist and musical critic, he combines research and musicological publications with his compositions and, along with Rosita, he creates the Diana gallery (where surrealist painter Remedios Varo would start to be recognised). Also, Igor Stravinsky doesn’t hesitate to let the couple know when he visits Mexico DF and, as an anecdote, Bal y Gay and Rosita’s nephew and niece gradually discover the first drafts of Cien años de soledad (A Hundred Years of Solitude). Gabriel García Márquez, in fact, will dedicate the novel to them –Jomí García Ascot and María Luisa Elío–. Their life coda starts in 1965 with their return to the (un)known streets of a new Madrid.

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Que papel cres que ten Bal y Gay en Galicia? Pensas que está o suficientemente valorado?

What role do you think Bal y Gay has in Galicia? Do you think he is valued enough?

No eido da música popular o Cancionero Gallego (Barrié de la Maza, 1973) é unha das publicacións máis importantes e recoñecidas do noso patrimonio. Un traballo de campo -realizado xunto a Torner entre 1928 e 1932- no que se recollen centos de melodías (e anotacións) que nas últimas décadas serviu de inspiración a novos traballos de creación. Entre as últimas publicacións o fantástico disco Oh Trío (Producciones Efímeras, 2015) do zanfonista Germán Díaz.

Pola contra, o seu pensamento estético de vangarda é máis descoñecido. Fai uns meses estiven facendo entrevistas aos principais axentes da cultura galega sobre o seu ensaio Hacia el Ballet Gallego (Ronsel, 1924) e o resultado foi desalentador na maioría dos casos. Un texto sobre a escena en Galicia que non fala de verbas baratas, e máis ao ser conscientes de que foi escrito no Lugo dos anos 20, cando en Galicia o pensamento estético era un verdadeiro rara avis.

Continuando co seu traballo de crítica e pedagoxía a través de prensa, non podemos esquecer os seus incontables artigos en El Pueblo Gallego, onde Bal achega ao pobo galego as propostas da vangarda europea que el coñece de primeira man en Madrid. Neste sentido, é fermoso por exemplo lembrar o emotivo convite que fai aos seus paisanos da visita de Lorca a Galicia en 1932 coa Barraca!

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É complexo atopar as súas publicacións bibliográficas en bibliotecas ou reedicións no mercado, polo que non é doado o seu estudo e coñecemento. Afortunadamente, a súa música estase recuperando e gravando nos últimos anos. Neste sentido é fundamental o traballo do director José Luis Temes coa interpretación da súa Obra sinfónica coa Orquestra de Córdoba (Verso, 2012) ou a recente publicación da pianista galega Paula Ríos coa obra para piano e voz do matrimonio: Viento de plata (Columna Música, 2015). Nesta liña a editorial Ouvirmos tamén sumou a Sonata para clarinete de 1947 ou a inédita Pastoral para guitarra que incluín no meu primeiro traballo discográfico Guitarra clásica galega.

With regard to popular music, his Cancionero Gallego (Barrié de la Maza, 1973) is one of the most important and recognised publications of our heritage. A field work –done with Torner between 1928 and 1932– in which hundreds of melodies (and annotations) are gathered, a work that has been an inspiration for new creations in the past decades. Among these new publications is zanfonist Germán Díaz’s fantastic work Oh Trío (Producciones Efímeras, 2015).

However, the public is less aware about his avant-garde aesthetic thinking. A few months ago I interviewed some of the major cultural agents in Galicia about his essay Hacia el Ballet Gallego (Ronsel, 1924), and the result was disheartening in most cases. A text about ballet in Galicia which doesn’t deal with nonsense, especially if we take into account that it was written in Lugo in the 1920s, when aesthetic thinking in Galicia was very rare.

In relation to the critical and pedagogic work he carried out through the press, we can’t forget his many articles in El Pueblo Gallego, where Bal brings the European avant-garde trends that he has experienced directly in Madrid to the Galician public. It is beautiful to think about the touching invitation that he offers to his fellow countrymen in relation to Lorca’s visit to Galicia in 1932 with the Barraca.

It is difficult to find his bibliographic publications in libraries, or to see new publications of his works in the market, which makes their recognition and study difficult. Fortunately, his music has started to be recovered and recorded in the past few years. In this sense we have invaluable publications, such as the work of director José Luis Temes with his performance of his Obra Sinfónica coa Orquestra de Córdoba (Verso, 2012), the recent version of Viento de Plata (Columna Música, 2015), the couple’s work for piano and voice, interpreted by Galician pianist Paula Ríos’s. Also, publishing house Ouvirmos published his Sonata para clarinete, from 1947, or the previously unpublished Pastoral for guitar that I included in my first work Guitarra Clásica Galega.

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Como ves o panorama actual dos estudos musicolóxicos en Galicia? Como pensas que a investigación musicolóxica pode afectar os estudos culturais sobre Galicia en xeral?

How do you see the current panorama of the Musicological Studies in Galicia? And how do you think research in music can affect Galician Cultural Studies in general?

Podemos regresar a Bal e o Seminario de Estudos Galegos para descubrir a interdisciplinaridade dos estudos musicolóxicos. O interese dos membros do grupo era moi alto. Para a publicación de Terra de Melide (1933), por exemplo, Otero Pedrayo decidiu agardar á parte musical retrasando o prelo e publicación.

Actualmente estanse publicando diversos estudos e novas creacións artísticas nas que o estudo musicolóxico é a base do traballo. O meu interese reside naqueles traballos que teñen unha finalidade interdisciplinar aberta ao público. Por mencionar algunhas realidades volvo a Ouvirmos e a súa Historia da música en Galicia de Lorena López Cobas, ou a editorial Alvarellos coas súas publicacións relacionadas coa música en Compostela. A nivel dixital é increíbel a inquedanza da sociedade na dinamización da páxina en facebook Proxecto Virtual Recuperación do PatrimonioMusical Galego Séculos XIX-XX coordinada por Milagros Bará Viñas e o pianista Alejo Amoedo. Regresando ao ambito da música popular, imprescindíbel o recente disco The tambourine man de Xabier Díaz.

Precisamos descubrir e coñecer a nosa identidade, nomes propios dos que sentirnos fachendosos polo mundo adiante, saber de onde vimos para sentir a onde queremos ir. A sociedade pídeo e necesítao. Esa debería de ser a finalidade de toda investigación, cun compromiso social real conectando as universidades co pobo.

We can go back to Bal and the Seminario de Estudos Galegos to discover the interdisciplinarity of Music Studies. The interest of the members of the group was very high: for Terra de Melide (1933), for example, Otero Pedrayo decided to wait for the musical part, even if that meant postponing the publication of the work.

Today we are seeing the publication of new artistic creations and research based in musicological study. My interest lies in those works which have an interdisciplinary goal and are, at the same time, open to the public. If I was to mention a few, I could talk about Ouvirmos and Lorena López Cobas’s Historia da música en Galicia, or the Alvarellos publishing house and their publications related to music in Compostela. In the digital realm, it is incredible to see society’s interest to put energy into the Facebook page Proxecto Virtual Recuperación do Patrimonio Musical Galego Séculos XIX-XX, coordinated by Milagros Bará Viñas and pianist Alejo Amoedo. In popular music, Xabier Díaz’s recent work The Tambourine Man is essential.

We need to discover and be aware of our identity, of what can make us walk proudly all over the world, know where we come from in order to feel where we want to go. Our society is asking for it and needs it. This should be the goal of all research, with a social commitment that connects universities with the people.

Ademais do teu disco Guitarra Clásica Galega, publicado en 2012, acabas de publicar un traballo sobre as composicións da Xeración do 27, do que puidemos gozar no teu concerto aquí en Cork. Pódesnos falar de por que xurdiu a idea de centrarte nesta época en concreto, e como foi a evolución da idea abstracta a traballo concreto?

Apart from your work Guitarra Clásica Galega, published in 2012, you recently published a discographic work about the music in the Generation of 27, which we were fortunate enough to enjoy in your concert here in Cork. Could you tell us why you thought about focusing on this period specifically, and how the evolution from abstract thought to concrete product was?

Podo regresar a Bal y Gay? Doutra forma non sería verdadeiro. Con el comecei a miña viaxe de lecturas que me levou ao Madrid dos anos 20 e 30. Pouco a pouco descubría un mundo completamente descoñecido. Ninguén me falara desta época -dende unha óptica musical- durante os meus estudos. Foi unha investigación alentada por musicólogos especialistas e que rápidamente abrín a outras disciplinas e inquedanzas. A proposta en concerto, coas obras para guitarra do 27 despertou o interese de importantes institucións, escenarios e premios, até ser seleccionado por INJUVE para a súa publicación. É máxico ser conscientes de que a guitarra foi símbolo modernista para artistas plásticos, escritores ou compositores non guitarristas: Picasso ou Juan Gris, Lorca ou Gerardo Diego, Falla ou Robert Gerhard. Casi nada…

Can I go back to Bal y Gay? Otherwise I wouldn’t be true to the story. With him I started a reading travel that took me to the Madrid of the 1920s and 30s. Little by little I was discovering a completely unknown world. Nobody had talked to me about that period –from a musical perspective- while I was studying. My research was encouraged by musicology specialists, and I soon opened it to other disciplines and interests. The idea of the concert with the works for guitar of the Generation of 27 attracted the interest of important institutions, scenes and awards, until it was selected by INJUVE for publication. It is magical to discover that the guitar was a modernist symbol for plastic artists, writers or non-guitarist composers: Picasso and Juan Gris, Lorca and Gerardo Diego, Falla and Robert Gerhard. Wow…

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Finalmente gustaríanos, por suposto, saber como foi a túa experiencia en Cork. Que lembranzas levas dos teus días en Irlanda? Repetirías?

Lastly, of course, we would like to know what you thought of your visit to Cork. What memories are you bringing back from your days in Ireland? Would you come back?

Foi un verdadeiro regalo estar con vós. Grazas, de corazón. Tanto Beatriz como eu temos unha lembraza moi fermosa. Todo o departamento, a universidade e vós, o Centro Irlandés de Estudos Galegos. Días nos que un é consciente da dulzura de vivir… Repetimos?

It was a real gift to be with you. Thank you, truly. Both Beatriz and I have a really beautiful memory of this: the Department, the University and the Irish Centre for Galician Studies… They were days in which we were aware of the sweetness of living. Shall we repeat?

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