Torner Asturian Songbook


On this post I’m going to talk about Eduardo Martinez Torner Asturian Songbook. It’s the main book to understand the traditional music in Asturias. In this blog I’m going writing about Asturian Bagpipe Books you should to know and today you will know this Songbook published 100 years ago.


Eduardo Martínez Torner and the Folk-lore Music

When I’d written about like folklore born, I’d thought why appears this movement. The Oral tradition has been transmitted from generation to generation since ancient ages bu many legends and tales has came to our days with this method.

The great problem which ever have had this method it’s the little written material, above all, haven’t had a professional editorials to produce this books. Therefore, at the end of the XIX Century appears the Folk-Lore to collect the oral tradition.

With Eduardo Martinez Torner we can found the man who published the first Asturian Music Songbook, where he collected and transcribed traditional songs and lyrics. Torner born in 1888, he had studied Piano in Madrid’s Conservatory and, also, in Paris’ Schola Cantorum.


Eduardo Martínez Torner – Playing the piano

In 1916 he was awarded a scholarship from Asturian governement to study in Madrid, when he started to know the activities which made the Free Institution of Education. He lived in Student Residence where he helped to Jesus Bal y Gay to collect galician music themes. Also he met Federico García Lorca who had a good friendship with him.

Like other many spanish people, Torner went out of Spain because the Civil War and he died in London. It was the 1955 year and he was organising his return travel to home.

Torner Music Songbook - How he collected the music themes

Eduardo Martinez Torner start this book with a question: “Which is the traditional music origin?” and in his own words he wrote:

“Music isn’t the same art like the different kind of plastic arts, isn’t a replica or a theater play … Music it’s the most natural art …. because a man’s song it’s an ancient human manifestation and spontaneous like a human cry or a laugh”

A different art needs different kind of methods to research. In this case, with the traditional music, researchers collect the music themes to analyse them after.


Torner Asturian Songbook Cover

Torner had travelled around Asturias to collect different music themes which he used to listen in the village. He talked to the people and asked them for the songs. For example, I share with you the song number 458, a “Giraldilla” song by Pilar Garcia Martinez, a 28 years old woman from Teverga (Asturias).

He used to collect the traditional music themes, at first ,the music lyric:

Spanish Lyric

No suspires cuando yo,
prenda, por Dios te lo pido,
que se pueden encontrar
dos ayes en un camino.

Zapatée usté, serrana,
baile bien, baile bien el jaleo,
que los galanes de ahora
les gusta el baile ligero.

si les gusta el baile ligero,
también les gusta el dinero.

Ahora digo que no quiero
que tú me vengas a hablar;
ahora digo que no quiero
que tú me vengas a buscar.

English Translation Lyric

Don’t sigh at same time like me,
honey, for God I require to you
which could have been found
two laments in the way

Tap your shoes, lady,
dance good, dance good
the today beautiful men
want the light dance

If they want the light dance
also they want the money

Now I say that I don’t want
that you come to talk to me;
Now I say that I don’t want
that you come to find me.

And the second part it’s a transcription written in a sheet music:


Giraldilla collected by Torner in Teverga

Torner Music Songbook - Classification

It’s an awesome book and Turner made a great job when he travelled around Asturias to find the traditional music, but I think the organization who he made to study our music was fantastic.

The folklorists used to organized this kind of music with the lyrics like standard to sort music collections, but many times, the same melody can have different lyrics. So, Torner designed a new music organization which we can see at this picture:


Three first Torner Music Groups

Torner had organized the 500 themes collected in the Songbook in seven music groups. This groups allow to study this music from different ways.

Why you should read this Torner Songbook

If you like music and you want to learn how asturian traditional music repertory had been builded you should start with this book. Like folk musician, I have many music examples, collected by Torner, to play in my music themes.

To finish, I share with you the music theme of Llan de Cubel – “Xirandiyes de Torner”. It’s composed with a little few “Giraldillas” published on Torner Songbook.

See you on next Post!

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