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  • SENSE OF RHYTHM AND TIMING WITH LATIN AMERICAN MUSIC Dr. Alejandro Cremaschi University of Colorado Boulder Handout and slides at:

  • Goals Discuss approaches to teaching and thinking rhythm Demonstrate Latin American pieces

  • What pieces? Latin American pieces inspired by folk Different rhythmic energies From elegant salon dances To wild dissonant toccata-style pieces

    Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina Available in the US

  • What can you learn? Embodied rhythm. Strong sense of pulse Different rhythmic energies Direction Syncopation Irregular rhythmic groupings Layering of rhythms Effective management of stamina Flexibility

  • Pieces with frequent rhythm problems Sudden changes of rhythmic values

    Clementi. Sonatina Op. 36 No. 1 Second mvt.

  • Mozart. Sonata K. 545. First mvt.

  • Beethoven. Sonata Op. 2 No. 1. Second mvt.

  • Technical challenges

    Clementi. Sonatina Op. 36 No. 1. First mvt.

  • Beethoven. Fur Elise.

  • Complex rhythms and cross-rhythms

    Debussy. Arabesque No. 1.

  • Quick ornaments

    Bach. Minuet in G (Anna Magdalena Notebook).

  • Bach. WTC I Prelude in g.

  • Thinking rhythm First thing we teach: steady pulse and counting rhythm Counting and clapping Unit Metric Kodalys ti-ti-ta-ta

    1 1 1 1 and 1 1 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 and 2 3 1 2 3 ta ta ta ti ti ta ta ta - ah - ah

  • Rhythmic words Use of rhythmic words to help internalization Walk Whole-note-hold-it! Half-note Mountain Colorado Buffalo Blueberry Rabbit Pineapple

  • Teaching rhythm Sightreading and Rhythm Every Day. Helen Marlais & Kevin Olson. FJH Dictation from early on x x x xx x x x 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3||

  • Rhythmic performance Clap and count (using and, etc.) Marching & stomping the beat Conducting the beat (rhythmic solfege) Scatting with direction

  • Organic rhythm The grid Organic rhythm Breathes Has direction Has shape

  • Direction Rhythm + dynamic shape + accents = ITS ALIVE!!!! Building blocks at the micro level micro level have direction Large scale direction

  • Direction Pedro de Alcantara. Integrated Practice: Coordination, Rhythm and Sound. Oxford University Press. Building blocks are the result of three types of energy: Preparation (p) STRESS (S) Release (r)

  • Different combinations Iambic p S (to BE or NOT to BE) Trochaic S r (NE-ver, NE-ver, NE-ver ) Dactylus S r r (WA-shing-ton) Amphibrach p S r (ba-NA-na) Anapest p p S (go to HERE)

  • Danza Criolla. Ginastera

    From Twelve American Preludes.

  • Danza Criolla. Ginastera

    From Twelve American Preludes.

  • Abby Whiteside I feel strongly that (the term) rhythm should never be used for meter and note values, but be reserved for that continuous undulating action which once started, is impelled to carry the entire musical performance to a close. There must be a physical action in the playing mechanism which proceeds from the first tone of the phrase to the last tone... This action may go directly from one accent to another and use these accents as stepping stones in its procedure to the close of the musical statement. From her book On Piano Playing

  • Latin American music Dance and songs Origins Spanish/Portuguese African Indigenous

  • Latin American music Habanera rhythm as origin of many 2/4 dances Tango, milonga, candombe, danza, danzon, cha-cha-cha, mambo, guaracha, maxixe, reggaeton, cumbia

    Samba, choro Strong African elements

    Polka Waltz

  • Latin American music 6/8 dances with hemiolas Chacarera, zamba, son jarocho, malambo, huapango, cueca

    Multiple layers of rhythm Layers with different accent and groupings placements

  • Chacarera

  • Habanera

  • Habanera 2

  • Salsa


  • Rubato / tempo flexibility Marvin Blickenstaffs body copycat Living metronome exercise on a C scale (Alcantara)

  • Rubato / tempo flexibility Oral tradition Can be explained: Pull back the tempo:

    1. Edges a phrase (beginning / end) 2. Special harmonic moment (e.g. mode change) 3. Melodic jump 4. Climax and arrival (broadening)

    Push forward tempo 1. To build excitement (e.g. sequences), often leading to climax 2. When singer is quiet (transitions)

  • Tempo flexibility Use intuition Avoid being predictable Experiment: there are often several ways

  • Alberto Ginastera 1916-1983

    Danza de la Moza Donosa from Danzas Argentinas (Argentinean Dances) #6

  • GRACE AND DIRECTION Salon dances

  • Salon dances Buoyant but elegant energy Syncopation Clear direction Tempo stability

  • Salon dances Often subtle African influence Habanera, tango, choro, maxixe, samba, etc Syncopation Slightly accented often against the grid

  • Salon dances Contemporary pedagogical pieces Catherine Rollin. Dancing on the Keys series Gillock Vandall Alexander Wynn-Anne Rossi Eugenie Rocherolle

  • Salon dances Latin American quasi-classical composers Nazareth (Brazil) Cervantes, Lecuona (Cuba) Morel Campos (Puerto Rico) Piazzolla (Argentina)

    Latin American classical composers Villa-Lobos, Lorenzo-Fernandez, Ginastera, etc

  • Catherine Rollin

    Samba Fun, from Dancing on the Keys vol. 2 #11

  • Heitor Villa-Lobos

    Sacy, from Petizada #13

  • Ernesto Lecuona 1895-1963

    La comparsa, from Afro-Cuban Dances #18

  • Ernesto Nazaret 1863-1934

    Odeon, from Tangos and Brazilian Dances #15

  • Astor Piazzolla

    Verano Porteo #19


  • Irregular meters Definitely not from dance! Often inspired by imagined music of ancient indigenous people of the Americas New music in the 1940s Sometimes neoclassic

  • Alberto Ginastera

    In the First Pentatonic Mode, from Twelve American Preludes #24

  • Juan Jos Moncayo

    No. 1 of Tres Piezas #25

  • Alberto Ginastera

    Coda, from Suite de Danzas Criollas (Suite of Creole Dances) #26


  • Cross-rhythms Some habanera-influenced dances Triplets Several examples in the dance anthologies

  • Alberto Ginastera

    Milonga #27

  • GROUPINGS AND RHYTHMIC LAYERING Latin America at its essence

  • Grouping and layering 3 + 3 + 2 Layering of different groupings Origin: African percussion ensembles

  • Oscar Lorenzo-Fernandez

    Dancing Yaya, no. 1 from Yaya the Doll #31

  • Heitor Villa-Lobos

    Caboclinha, from Prole do Bebe (Babys family) no. 1 #32

  • Heitor Villa-Lobos

    A Lenda do Caboclo (The legend of the peasant)

  • TOCCATA-STYLE WRITING Audience rouser

  • Toccata-style Exciting writing Uses energetic folk dance rhythms Teach: Stamina Climax building Efficient use of energy Direction and forward-motion

  • Toccata-style For momentum and direction Dont overplay forte dynamics Whenever possible, understate notes between beats and bring out beat

    Find release points Better on the dry side, less pedal

  • Heitor Villa-Lobos

    Punch, from Babys family (Prole do bebe) #39

  • Alberto Ginastera

    Homage to Garcia Morillo, from Twelve American Preludes #37

  • Oscar Lorenzo-Fernandez

    Dance (Caterete), from Second Brazilian Dance. #40

  • Ginastera

    Malambo #41

  • THANK YOU! Slides available at: Or email me:


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