pre-Christian times to the era of the vihuela, there was a
period of slow, incessant development across successive generations
and stages of civilization of the desire to wed singing to
the accompaniment of musical instruments. In Spain, the Andalusian
musicians of the caliphate (government of a supreme ruler,
and players and troubadours of the upper Middle Ages) continued
to strive for musical excellence, which was more and more
required for the poetry, feelings and diversions of the people.
In the words of R. Tagore, "the poetry of songs without music
same desire led directly to the evolution of instruments capable
of expressing the type of music each period and atmosphere
required. With the great musical value, which these instruments
attained, a greater development of the music itself resulted,
which was enriched by the unending contributions of the Spanish
In the fifteenth century, after several centuries of living
with the guitar, vihuela, lute, and bandurria (an old musical
string instrument resembling the lute or guitar), each of
which could be played well either solo or in ensemble, the
vihuela began to gain ground in the instrumental field as
the favorite instrument in the courts of Aragon and Castilla.
At that time, dances were performed in the salons. The "alta"
and "baja," two dance forms much approved of by society, were
played on the vihuela. One such dance was written by Francisco
de la Torre to be performed in the court of the Catholic Kings.
This "danza alta" for three vihuelas, and other Spanish dances
of similar appeal, were much praised throughout all of Europe.
The fantasy, sensibility, and genius of the Spanish spirit
bore optimum fruit with several eminent Spanish musicians
who flourished between 1440 and 1480. Three such musicians
were Bartolome Ramos de Pareja, Francisco Guerrero, and Juan
Juan Vazquez, in his time, won just fame as the author of
beloved Christmas carols which were then widely played by
the vihuelists; "Vos Me Mataste," "Los Brazos Traigo Cansados,"
"Serrana, Donde Dormiste?", "Torna," "Mingog, A Namorarme,"
"Con Que Me Lavare" and "De Los Alamos Vengo."
According to Sainz de la Maza, Juan Vazquez, in the prologue
of his "Summary of Christmas Carols," clearly explains the
aesthetic plan which guided him in the elaboration of his
songs: "The musicians of our time accord serious, somber music
to the churches in order to inspire devotion within us and
lift our spirits to contemplation of the Creator; and compose
light, for the recreational moments of afflicted souls. Thus,
they dress the characteristic spirit of their works with the
most fitting form and music. Cristobal Morales, a shining
light in Spanish music, who developed in a short period, is
an excellent example of this type of musician; as is Seville's
Francisco Guerrero, who has so capably penetrated the secrets
And so, in effect, the vihuela, and also the guitar, perfectly
suited all parts of Spanish society. When not in the Church,
in the Court, in the private dwelling, or in the public or
private recreation, the vihuela was played either alone, with
other instruments, or as vocal accompaniment in the same manner
that the lute was played in various European countries, Three
famous women, Maria Estuardo, Diana de Francia, and Margarita
de Navarra, played the lute so well that it is certain they
left a favorable impression on the refined musical sensibility
of their time. The lute was a symbol of love and gallantry.