Lorca's main artistic activity was literary and is one of the Spanish authors most frequently used by composers worldwide. Nevertheless, music was always very intimately linked to all his own art.
His musical activity was varied: composer, folklorist and concert performer. Ian Gibson in his biography points out that "Lorca's life and works cannot be understood if one does not take into account the fact that Federico was a born musician". His musical compositions, many of them left in draft form, reflect a great capacity for improvisation. He had a very wide repertoire and a genuinely specialist knowledge of traditional music. This undoubtedly had a great influence on his literary works.
His second musical production, the Nueve canciones which were arranged by the poet, shows the Lorca who had expert knowledge in this kind of song, avoiding the slightest hint of sentimentality. The material chosen by Lorca include verses from the fifteenth century, seguidillas from the eighteenth, and zarzuela (operetta) from the nineteenth. These accompaniments are simple but extremely effective, and always bring out the rhythm and harmonies implicit in the text: a minimum dose of technique but a massive dose of artistic genius, in line with the Neoclassical trend. The Canciones carried great significance at that point in Spanish culture. Lorca often performed them in public before large audiences and this served to popularise the resurrection and continued presence of Spanish music.
Many of Lorca's poems incorporate music, for example the Suites (1936) and Sonata, but music appears particularly in several plays where it is clearly an integral part of the structure. The following plays were conceived as musical works: La zapatera prodigiosa, Así que pasen cinco años and El poema del café cantante, and particularly in Bodas de sangre, which could be described as a choral drama.
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