Multiculture and the popular element

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A brief historical background for the “Art of Touch” – project

The year 1492 marks a cultural turning point for Spain.
This is the year where the Italian Cristobal Columbus – financially supported by the Spanish queen Isabel – discovers a totally new continent, almost by chance, and thus opens the gate to a new era of Spanish influence in politics, economics and culture.

1492 is also the year which marks the definitive end of Islamic supremacy on the Iberian Peninsula.
Since 711 the North African, Muslim Moors had maintained the control over parts of the territories we today call Spain and Portugal. During more than 700 years ever changing alliances of Christian principalities and kingdoms fought for political power and territorial control, against the Muslim caliphates.
The fortune of war changed throughout the centuries, but in the long run the Moors was forced into the south-eastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula and by the end of the 15th century the last Iberian caliphate was reduced to a minor territory around Granada.

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Multicultural societies
In the areas that in the course of time were conquered by the Christian alliances, the Muslims – and the Jews – continued to live together, now as vassals under the Christian control.
The Muslim group, called Mudéjares, together with the sephardic Jews, constituted a relatively large part of the inhabitants, having a significant influence on the Christian Spanish society, especially within areas as medicine, architecture, economics, art, literature and music.

The end of the beginning
As time goes by and the influence of the Christian alliances on the peninsula is reinforced, the tolerance between the population sections decreases significantly. With the fall of Granada in 1492 it has definitely come to an end for the Muslim supremacy on the Iberian Peninsula, and also with any kind of unproblematic coexistence between the Christians, Muslims and the Jews.
In 1499 the Catholic kings Fernando and Isabel order all non-Christian Spaniards to be baptized under coercion and every mosque and synagogue are rebuilt into churches.
In 1609 after still a century with riots and inquisition all the population groups which are not considered ethnically Christian are forced to leave Spain.

New winds
During the 16th century new cultural winds blowing inward Spain gradually replaced older musical forms and instruments with new performing practices and theory from other corners of Europe.
But the thorough efforts of the Catholic church and the Crown to erase every trace of Islamic and Jewish influence in Spanish cultural life were only partly successful. Elements of oriental influence can be noticed in some parts of the Spanish art music well into the 18th century.
As for the folk music the Oriental element never disappears entirely and Arab as well as Sephardic and African influences are still a living part of the Spanish musical idiom.

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“El Arte de Tañer” (The Art of Touch – or the art of playing) is a CD recorded by the Via Artis Konsort member Poul Udbye Pock-Steen.
The CD is the first part of a larger project all about early organ music, i.e. organ music from late Medieval times to the Baroque period, with a special focus on the original performing instruments.
The CD recording has been supported by The Danish Embassy in Madrid and the foundation Reina Isabel de Dinamarca.

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