Wikipedias article on the Txalaparta starts with a description of it as an instrument for communication. So when the opportunity for a workshop with Enrike Hurtado at Live Interfaces came up I had to do it. My mind immediately wondered what would people communicate about the cider, how were the messages encoded.
Rather than describe this instrument and Enriques work, here is the text that advertised the workshop.
“The Txalaparta is a Basque musical tradition where two people make music by hitting planks of wood with large sticks, communicating with each other according to a tacit algorithm. Enrike Hurtado has developed software which can play the Txalaparta with a human.”
From Enrikes presentation it was clear that as with many folk other traditions, the history of this percussive art form is oblique. The notion that it was an instrument for communication is not well documented and there is even debate as to whether the Txalaparta refers to the instrument or to the way the two performers exchange rhythms.
It was fascinating to hear from Enrike how many aspects of the art form are open to change. For example the planks can vary any size and are not specifically tuned. One of the most notable features of the Txalaparta is that it is never played solo, phrases are played by one player and then repeated or modified by the other player. It functions a little bit like a game.
Its connection to cider seems to be as much due to with the process of making cider as to do with sending messages. From images of pre mechanical cider production its easy to see how the the artform could have evolved.
It was notable how the rhythms had generally become more quantised over the during
Euba has called xylophonisation
“Considering the historical evolution of the txalaparta – in particular the current ‘xylophonisation’ process where pitch has been added and the rhythm becomes quantised – it is interesting that the digital txalaparta, where the practice is translated into the digital domain, is closer to the origins of the txalaparta in operating with fluid rhythms and non-metric bars, both in its internal algorithms and graphical notation”
Although we did not learn about the structure of the language, as it is doubtful we have
The key figures who made it more popular
The study of the scores
The gradual quantisation of the form
And then we move to Enriques Software