2006 Student Research Conference:
19th Annual Student Research Conference

Interdisciplinary

Saeta: Christian Arrow of Song
Laura M. Trieschmann
Prof. Shirley McKamie, Faculty Mentor

The saeta (literally, “arrow of song”) is a Christian song typically performed in Spain during Holy Week festivities, serving to directly connect singers and listeners to God. Modern saeta emerged in the 18th century as a Christian expression, but musicologists have uncovered fascinating similarities to possible antecedents in Jewish, Muslim, Roma, Hindu and pagan musical traditions. Sephardic Jews, persecuted after 1492, may have contributed to the highly emotional chant style, poetic themes and cantor/chorus nature of saeta’s performance. Muslims brought more lively rhythms and the Oriental scale to Spain during their 800-year occupation. The Roma, or Gypsies, may have brought Hindu musical practices with them. Finally, evidence indicates a pagan precursor to the Spanish Easter celebration. Saeta may be losing religious significance, making the need for conclusive research critical. Each current hypothesis is both backed and debunked by sound research, leaving saeta’s true origins shrouded in mystery.

Keywords: saeta, Sephardic Jews, Muslims, Gypsies/Roma, Catholic, emotional chant, Spain, Mozarabic

Topic(s):Interdisciplinary

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 14-2
Location: OP 2115
Time: 8:30

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