Art music forms in Philippine music consist of locally composed works
that have used standard formats of Western music. These forms evolved
through the introduction and assimilation of European classical music which
includes both religious and secular compositions. Before the American
colonial regime, Filipino musicians who received their musical training
mostly from the clergy, produced masses, hymns and vespers for use in the
liturgical services. Some of these works were quite elaborate, some with
Some of the Early secular
forms of entertainment are the awit and kurido, which
replaced some of the ancient epics of communities that had been converted to
Christianity. These metrical romances written in octosyllabic and
dodecasyllabic quatrains told of saintly and heroic tales in medieval
Europe, and the crusades against the Moors. Local versions were written and
performed by local playwrights and artists and flourished in the Tagalog,
Ilokano, Pampango, Bikol and Ilongo.
The Spanish comedia
was the early form of theater that was introduced to the people in the late
16th century. The first comedias were religious dramas. In the
18th century more and more comedias were about the lives of
kings and nobles as well as their battle against the infidels. In the
Philippines, the thematic plot of the conflict between Christians and the
Moros gave birth to the comedias called moro-moro. In the 19th
century, the komedya was totally adopted by the Filipinos,
with the plots based on the printed "corridos". They spread to the different
regions and became a popular form of entertainment until the advent of a
much more sophisticated form of musical theater: the Spanish zarzuela.
The zarzuela was introduced in the Philippines in the late 19th
century with the arrival of foreign productions, until even local singers
and conductors were trained and contracted to perform. The first Filipino
sarswela were written in the 1890's. At the turn of the century,
the regional sarswelas emerged in Northern Luzon, Bikol and the
Visayas. During the American regime, the Filipino sarswela served
as a medium of political protest and criticism of the colonial rule. At the
same time, the form represented the high quality of music-literary
creativity of the Filipinos in that their popularity was partly the result
of collaborations between well-known playwrights and composers.
The Filipino opera
is likewise an off-shoot of the introduction of the European opera., the
first presentation being dated in the 1960's. Because of the availability of
local singers, instrumentalists, and conductors, the opera did not take long
to be adopted by the Filipinos. The first Filipino opera was composed in
1902 entitled "Sandugong Panaginip". Composers who wrote important works in
this medium include Gavino Carluen, Felipe Padilla De Leon, Alfredo
Buenaventura, and Eliseo Pajaro.
The establishment of
formal music schools during the early American colonial regime produce
highly trained musicians. Most of the composers began to write in the major
western classical forms such as the concerto, symphony, the suite, the
concertino, the rhapsody the concert overture, and the symphonic poem. The
latter two were not only written for the symphony orchestra, but the
symphonic band as well, since a number of Filipino composers received their
initial musical training in local town musicians. The band literature also
includes hymns and marches. Works for chamber ensembles (quintets, quartets,
trios) and solo instruments were also written, especially character pieces
for the piano. Santiago's String Quartet in G in
1924 is considered a forerunner, followed by Molina's String
Quartet en D Mayor, and Trio in F.
A great deal of the
major works are programmatic in nature and are of religious or nationalist
in character. The first group of art music composers includeJuan Hernandez, Nicanor Abelardo, Francisco Buencamino and
Antoni Molina. Some of these major works are Abelardo's Piano
Concerto of 1923, Santiago's "Tagailog"
Symphony, Molina's "Batingaw"
"Choral Symphony", "Mayon",
"Piano Concerto" by Francisco Buencamino.
generation of composers consists of Antonio Buenaventura who composed the
famous tone poems By the Hillside and
Youth and Hilarion Rubio who wrote "Pilipinas Kong
Mahal" Symphonic Overture and Symphony for Greatness. Rodolfo Cornejo, who is also
highly proficient on the keyboard, composed Symphony-
"The Allies" and "Dedication"
Symphony. Ramon Tapales, a violinist of note,
contributed some major works like Philippine Suite
and Ave Liberator to honor the liberation of the
Philippines at the end of the 2nd World War. Another contemporary
Lucino Sacramento wrote the highly romantic twin piano concertos "Maharlika"
and "Bituin". This generation was followed by
Felipe Padilla De Leon who wrote the monumental operas Noli Me
Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and
Lucio San Pedro with his symphonic poems Lahing Kayumanggi
and Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.
In the field of vocal
music, the Tagalog kundiman, a song of unrequitted love was
developed by these composers as an art song genre, composing pieces on texts
of high poetic value. The character and structural elements of the kundiman
is derived from an earlier Tagalog tune called comintang. The
kundiman starts in the minor key and ends in the parallel major. It is in
moderate 3/4 time. The immortal kundimans include Abelardo's
Nasaan Ka Irog and Kundiman ng Luha
and Santiago's Madaling Araw. Other song forms
which were used by the composers are the balitaw
which is of lighter character and the danza, a
dance form in duple time which is similar to a tango.
The idiom of the early
art music works was very much influenced by the music of the European
romantic composers, such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Peter Tchaikowshy,
Guiseppe Verdi, Giacchomo Puccini, and Gaetano Donizetti.
Works that show the
influence of early twentieth century European idiom were written by Eliseo
Pajaro, Lucresia Kasilag, Rosendo Santos, Amada Santos-Ocampo, Alfredo
Buenaventura, and Jerry Dadap. This group of composers may be considered as
neo-classicists, fusing Filipino musical elements, mostly folk melodies,
with the harmonies, rhythms and textures found in the works of the European
and American neo-classic composers.
Panganiban, Bienvenido S.P. "The 'Juenesses Musicales' - Its Role in the Philippines", Unitas 35, University of Sto. Tomas, 1962
Rubio, Hilarion. "Filipino Muisc in the Past Three Decades", Fookien Times Yearbook. 1956
Samson, Helen. "Zarzuela", Filipino Heritage VI. Felta Books, Inc.
Santos, Ramon P. "Art Music of the Philippines in the 20th Century in The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Sean Williams and Terry Miller, eds. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1998
_____________. "Classical and Art Music in the Philippines", Compendium of the Humanities of the Philippines -- Musical Arts. Corazon Dioquino (ed.) National Research Council of the Philippines, 1998
_____________. "Nationalism in the Philippine Music During the Japanese Occupation: Art or Propaganda?", Panahon na ng Hapon: Sining sa Digmaan, Digmaan sa Sining. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1992
About the Author:
Ramon P. Santos, Ph. D. is a composer and musicologist, having received training at the University of the Philippines, Indiana University and the State University of New York at Buffalo. He was a full fellow at the Summer Courses in New Music at Darmstadt and undertook post-graduate work in Ethnomusicology at the University of Illinois with grants from the Asian Cultural Council and the Ford Foundation. His works have been featured in major festivals in Europe and in Asia. Recently, he has been awarded residency fellowships at the Bellagio Study Center and the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy.
In the field of musicology, he has undertaken researches not only in Philippine and Asian contemporary music, but also studied Javanese gamelan music and dance and Nan Kuan, and engaged in continuing field studies of Philippine traditional music such as the Ibaloi badiw, the Maranao bayok, and the musical repertoires of the Mansaka, Bontoc, Yakan, and Boholano. He has contributed major articles on Philippine music to various encyclopedias and anthologies such as The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, the Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, the Compendium of the Humanities in the Philippines. He was chief editor and writer of the book Musics of the ASEAN, and has produced CD’s on Mindanao Highland Music, Mansaka Music and Music of the Bontoc from the Mountain Province.
He is currently serving as University Professor of the UP, Commissioner for the Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and 2nd Vice President of the International Music Council.