In August 2012, "Listening to the Past", an essay by the Granada historian, went on sale in our country José Enrique Ruiz-Domènec, who thinks that «music is the daughter of its time and rarely does a musician make music from another era«.
After garnering great success from the public and critics with his previous work “Europe, the keys to its history”, Ruiz-Domènec began to write a book about classical music which has turned out to be loaded with originality and ingenuity.
As he stated in an interview for the EFE news agency, the historian considers that his greatest contribution in «Listen to the past» (published by RBA publisher) is that it is «the first time that the rhythm of History is interpreted with music as a documentary source, something that had been done, in the seventies with architecture or art”.
The book is organized into nine sessions, and for the first time describes a journey through the history of European music over eight centuries, in which the author covers a wide and interesting range of topics: culture, politics, the economy and even the life events of some singular figures.
The public to whom the work is dedicated is the average reader, who can like both classical music and history Without needing to be a specialist in these types of characters, for that very reason Ruiz-Domènec banished from his work «music jargon and it is not a music book in the classical sense, no sheet music«.
And it is that for the historian, there is nothing that better defines the rhythm of European history than its music, «from the 12th century until now, and during that period music was the only element that compensated for the aggressive and conquering spirit of its peoples«.
Many are the events that occur in those eight hundred years that Ruiz-Domènec analyzes in his essay, «There are two or three great wars per century, and music, which is also the only international art - Romanesque painting is different in the north and in the south - often serves as catharsis«.
The author reminds us that many of the great successes of classical music were composed thanks to the setbacks that history brought: «If he had not failed in religious music, Monteverdi would not have gone to Venice, where he laid the foundations of the opera«. Like Handel never would have created his popular «Messiah "if Frederick the Great had not shown such folly in attacking Austria with the aim of conquering Silesia in 1741, which meant" the return to the wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants«.
Later, Handel himself under the protection of the new king George of Hannover, became so involved in the politics of his country that he even composed the current British anthem.
At the same time, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina I become "the musical weapon of the Counter-Reformation, but it must be recognized that it prevented Catholicism, led by the Pope, from liquidating music at the Council of Trent, and thereby allowed Renaissance music to arrive, and (the composition known as ) the madrigal lays the foundations for Monteverdi, Scarlatti and Vivaldi to exist«.
The most obvious exponent of the importance of the human factor in the popularization of music was Louis XIV, the Sun King, who in his palace at Versailles fell in love with Lully's upbeat music, but who «having a bad aging and entering an acute mysticism in his later years, he will need another composer to explain what is happening to him and that is Charpentier«.
Throughout the essay, the representation of Spanish music is conspicuous by its absence, an absence that Ruiz-Domènec explains in the following way: «The Spanish Empire, which for two centuries dominated the European scene, never understood the rhythm of History and although initially its music became sophisticated, picking up the Burgundian tradition, it never had a crucial character as it did in literature with Cervantes or in the painting with Velázquez«.
The historian culminates his long analysis of the musical history of Europe with Arnold Schönberg and 1933, the time when Nazism took power in Germany.
After World War II, «other music such as swing, tango, boleros, boogie boogie, jazz, folk or rock gave a better response to what was happening than the music of the canon«.
Also, for Ruiz-Domènec the value of the cinema as a musical promoter does not go unnoticed, in fact it comes to be considered as «the art that has best interpreted the value of music through the soundtrack«.