Hirviendo el mar

Tonos humanos: En una concha de Venus


Vandalia & Ars Atalantica

They are sung pieces, in verse and vernacular language, known in that period as human tones (or just tones) when they were profane, and divine tones when they were religious. Those composed in the first half of the 17th century were mostly polyphonic, which reveals that, in this period, polyphony was still thought to be the highest and most prestigious. The Book of Human Tones, preserved at present at the National Library of Spain under the signature M 1262, constitutes, with its 222 works, a privileged sample of all the aspects. Who might be interested in these works has now the possibility to listen to them in a retrained performance on four voices with harp accompaniment, one of the instruments used in this repertoire. If, on the one hand, the vocal quartet shows that the “grace notes” (“quiebros”) and voice effects do not constitute an impediment for the care of tuning, on the other hand the harp adds to the score beautiful introductory and transition passages based on the features of passacaglias and 17th century dances.


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The Project

Boiling the sea is the result of the wish Manuel Vilas and I myself had to collaborate with our respective groups in a project that had to meet some requisites. From VANDALIA, after our pleasant experience with the CD of songs by Juan Vásquez (1500-1560?), Soledad tengo de ti (Brilliant Classics), we wanted to carry on with the line of recording Spanish profane music in Spanish, preferably unpublished in the recording field, for a vocal quartet or trio. For his part, Manuel Vilas with his group Ars Atlántica had a wide and productive trajectory behind their back, being one of the reference performers who have most contributed to the rehabilitation and diffusion of this patrimony. Yet, much to his regret, Manuel had not had the occasion of recording polyphonic human tones, despite their evident musical and recording interest. It is a repertoire even more unknown than the human tones for soloist from the second half of the 17th century, which has been object of more attention over the past few years. Besides, polyphonic tones constitute a link of great historical interest that connects the tradition of Renaissance polyphonic songs to the tones for soloist and continuo of the new Baroque style. The revision and selection of polyphonic tones from the first half of the 17th century that we conducted thanks to the research activities by Manuel and the live performance of some of these pieces in the 14th Spanish Music Festival of Cadiz (2016) confirmed us that this music met all the requirements that we had been looking for. Thus we found the way to satisfy our desires, joining forces in a joint and exciting project that could, moreover, make our modest contribution to valuing a repertoire scarcely tackled. Let us hope it is the first of many and equally satisfactory collaborations.