The sign outside the Watts Towers Art Center | Still from "The Watts Towers Arts Center" ab s11 episode image

Craig Russell: Unearthing California's Musical Missions

Artbound's editorial team has reviewed and rated the most compelling weekly articles. After putting two articles up for a vote, the audience chose this article to be made into a short-format documentary.

 

For San Luis Obispo composer Craig Russell, there's no more perfect symbol of life in the California missions than the fandango.

First popularized in the 1700s, the fandango was one of the few community events in which people from all levels of society -- from Chumash girls to Spanish soldiers -- could participate, Russell said. "Regardless of your social class or your ethnicity or your occupation or your gender, you're welcome to dance the fandango," the Cal Poly music professor said. "It's the musical expression of 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

Russell recreates the fandango and other California mission music in his composition "Ecos armónicos," which showcases snippets of the sacred and secular tunes played throughout the state in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

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