The music of Guatemala is diverse. Music is played all over the country. Towns also have wind and percussion bands that play during the lent and Easter-week processions as well as on other occasions.. Guatemala also has an almost five-century-old tradition of art music, spanning from the first liturgical chant and polyphony introduced in to contemporary art music. Much of the music composed in Guatemala from the 16th century to the 19th century has only recently been unearthed by scholars and is being revived by performers.
Much of what is known about how the ancient Mayans created and played music comes from the iconography that is preserved in the ceremonial pieces of mural art, or codices. Many kinds of instruments were used, but they essentially broke down into two categories, being wind instruments aerophones and percussion instruments idiophones. The wind instrument family consisted of cane and bone flutes, different types of whistles, ocarinas of various designs, and other sibilant vessels. It is made from a hollow tree trunk with an H-shaped incision whose resulting tongues are hit with rudimentary drumsticks.
The music the Mayans played was performed and danced to during festivities and rituals, usually in celebration of or to communicate with the gods that they worshiped. The marimba's first documentary evidence of existence comes from an account in front of the cathedral of Santiago de Guatemala, present-day Antigua Guatemala , in The instrument may be probably much older, as an attempt at recreating an older West African instrument, and could have been introduced by Afro-Caribbean slaves as early as By the early 20th century, wooden-box resonators had replaced the gourd resonators.
Modern marimba bands include a smaller marimba for three players, a larger marimba for four players, plus a drum kit or other percussion and a string bass. Some bands have occasionally employed one or two saxophones , as well as one or two trumpets and a trombone. This musical instrument is from Chichicastenango and it is made of palo de hormigo, a type of wood used for marimba manufacture, and pumpkins tecomates.
This type of marimba is played by a single person who is requested to liven up concerts of the brotherhood from Chichicastenango. Marimbas have many sizes and shapes and that is what makes this instrument so unique. The soundboards of the marimba simple are made of wood such as cedar or cypress. The construction of the first marimba was diatonic, related to a key, and because it is easy to play it was called Marimba Simple.
The arch marimba was probably the first, followed by a simple instrument with a diatonic row of wood bars played with mallets, with gourd resonators, placed on a wooden a stand. The marimba concert is played by several musicians at a time. Chromatic Marimba is the standard marimba known worldwide. Developed in the southeast of Mexico and Guatemala inspired by the science of the marimba simple. It has the same functionality as the marimba simple but the difference is the chromaticism that this instrument has.
This marimba is chromatic because you can have all 12 notes of the scale. This marimba was built with a double keyboard, one larger than the other representing the basic idea of the piano keys. It is very versatile to play and 3 or 4 performers can play it at the same time. This gives the performance more color and the whole spectrum of the high, mid and low register is used throughout the performance.
Lord Sebastian Hurtado , a native of Quetzaltenango , was the first person to build a marimba with a double keyboard, capable of producing chromatic scales around the beginning of the 20th century. Its construction was a suggestion of the musician Julian Paniagua Martinez. The first concert featuring a marimba doble in the City of Guatemala was in the year , on the birthday of President Manuel Estrada Cabrera , where the Hurtado brothers gave a show for the president and all were very pleased with the result and versatility of the performance.
The marimba grande is the larger of the two keyboards that make up the double marimba marimba doble. It reflects the representative style in the construction of instruments from Guatemala.
It is fully hand-made and the variety of wood they use gives this marimba a warm sound. Although over time, builders have added some metal support reinforcements to the structure of the marimba to make it more durable and stable. This instrument has a range of six octaves, from F-sharp to B-natural.
The instrument is 8. Garifuna originated from escaped Island Caribs who were deported from St. The Garifunas kept themselves apart from the social system then dominant, leading to a distinctive culture that include chumba and hunguhungu, a circular dance in a three beat rhythm, which is often combined with punta, their national genre.
There are other songs typical to each gender, women's eremwu eu and abaimajani, rhythmic a cappella songs, and laremuna wadauman, men's work songs. Other forms of dance music include matamuerte, gunchei, charikawi and sambai. The field of art music, also known as "classical music", includes various musical styles such as Renaissance , baroque , classical , romantic , 20th-century music , and post-modern music.
Guatemala was one of the first regions of the New World to be exposed to European music. The Spanish missionaries and clergy introduced Flemish and Spanish liturgical music during the early 16th century as part of the Roman Catholic rite.
The first cathedral at the newly founded city of Santiago de Guatemala was endowed with a choir in charge of plainchant and Latin polyphony. Scholars have shown that musical activity in the missions of Huehuetenango, in the northwestern mountains of present-day Guatemala, was significant. Native musicians learned the art of polyphonic composition from the missionaries and also contributed a number of villancicos in Spanish and local Mayan languages to the repertory of matins and vespers music at their parish churches.
The latter successfully introduced Guatemalan folk-music elements in his vocal works, especially his villancicos for Christmas, which often show traits of Afro-Caribbean and Mayan rhythms, melodies, and accompaniment styles. His extant works reflect Castellanos' mastery of the style of his time, as well as an unusual originality based on plainchant models, baroque part-writing, and the frequent inclusion folk-music idioms. His Seventh Symphony , dedicated to the victory of the Federal Army at Xiquilisco in present-day El Salvador , is a model of classical balance.
An Italian opera company arrived in bringing Pietro Visoni as orchestra conductor and his wife Luisa Riva de Visoni as prima donna. Visoni was the former organist of the Duomo cathedral of Milan. Visoni merged the two bands and officially established the Martial Symphony Band still in existence. Since there were not enough trained musicians in the country, Visoni created Guatemala's first music conservatory, the School of Substitutes known today as Military School of Music Maestro Rafael Alvarez Ovalle.
The School of Substitutes became the breeding ground for some of Guatemala's greatest composers, including Rafael Alvarez Ovalle, composer of the national anthem. In the s members of the band were among the founding members of the National Symphony Orchestra.
The late 19th century is represented in Guatemala by several trends: the aforementioned introduction of opera , the training abroad of several highly talented pianist- composers , the influence of military band music, and the invention and development of the chromatic marimba.
Piano music was enormously furthered by scholarships for study in Italy and France awarded to several young talents. Castillo, all of whom flourished during the first decades of the twentieth century. A group of composers furthered and instructed by the Prussian conductor and bandmaster, Emil Dressner, came from the realm of military bands and salon music.
This new development made it possible to play the fashionable dance and salon music on the marimbas, which previously had been restricted to the diatonic scale.
As a result, Guatemalan light music achieved an enormous dissemination at home and abroad by countless marimba bands that were formed from the beginning of the twentieth century. Much of the music of that time is still alive in the memorized repertoire of present-day marimba groups. By the end of the nineteenth and in the first part of the 20th century, several composers developed a keen interest in Mayan mythology and folk music, on which they based their scenic and concert compositions.
His half brother Ricardo Castillo — studied in Paris , where he acquired impressionistic and neo-classical techniques. His piano music, as well as his orchestral output, reflects the fusion of his contemporary art with Mayan mythology such as legends and myths from the Popol Vuh.
In their stage, vocal, and instrumental works, they have shown an interest in Mayan and Garifuna cultural elements, which they have stylized in different ways. Among his former students, the Gandarias brothers have focused on electronic process of folk-music and bird calls recorded on site, producing several discs.
Among the younger composers, several have written works in a variety of post-modern styles, often returning to traditional or free tonality in their vocal and instrumental compositions. Later, in , begins the time of the national broadcasting. In that period, the transmitters produced dramatized pieces, arose programs from quality that could compete with the foreigners; the broadcasting reached their maximum development. Present-day Guatemala boasts a number of performing organizations, such as orchestras , choirs , chamber ensembles, opera troupes, soloists and dozens of rock bands.
In a permanent conductor was appointed Ricardo del Carmen, who was joined in the early s by Jorge Sarmientos, another music director. In , after both conductors retired, the orchestra decided to dispense with a permanent music director, working only with guest artists. As a result, many of the orchestra's concerts are conducted by some of its members, who are not necessarily trained in orchestral conducting.
This orchestra is endowed with subsidy from the government to cover salaries and expenses. It has yearly seasons, one of which includes international guests; the other seasons are popular and didactic in nature. It was a youth orchestra, and its members were students at different schools in Guatemala City.
Without financial support, it was forced to develop its activities with the aid of parents. In it was appointed official orchestra of the City of Guatemala, under the protection of the Mayor and City Council , with the name of Orquesta Metropolitana. In it separated from the City government, became independent again, and changed its name to Millennium Orchestra.
Since the death of its original leader in , it has been conducted by guests. In September the university cancelled all of the remaining season concerts and withdrew its support. Its members are students of the National Conservatory and other privates academies.
Its first Musical Director was Igor Sarmientos — This orchestra had the partial support of the government to cover their expenses until Among the choirs active in Guatemala, the oldest organization is the Coro Nacional , founded after the Revolution as Coro Guatemala. Over the decades, it has introduced many works by European composers, as well as numerous Guatemalan songs and choral compositions.
It is the only choral group with government support, and offers several yearly concert sessions. The university choirs are also very important, and gather in yearly traditional choral festivals. There are also independent, and amateur choral organizations. At the beginning of the new millennium, several choirs of children and young have sprouted, not only in Guatemala City, but also in towns and rural areas.
There are several chamber ensembles such as wind quintets, string quartets , brass choirs, and groups specializing in baroque performance practices. Among these, the Millennium Ensemble has raised much attention by their first performances of Renaissance , baroque , and classical works from colonial Guatemala, which they have presented at festivals and concerts in Europe , North- and South America.
Opera has also regained favour, with yearly performances at local festivals in Guatemala City and Antigua Guatemala. August has been influential in obtaining significant sponsorships for the staging of several operas by Verdi and Puccini.
Foreign opera companies also visit the country on occasion, performing in the magnificent National Theatre in Guatemala City or on historical locations in Antigua Guatemala. There are also well known film scoring composers from Guatemala such as Pieter Schlosser and Mauricio Trabanino.