December 2010

Soundscapes of The War

Walter Sánchez C.
Instituto de Investigaciones

Little or nothing is known about soundscapes during the period of pro-independence in Cochabamba, in the years before the foundation of the Republic of Bolivia in 1825. However, history can tell us that during the colonial period, the church was the privileged place for Hispanic music production in the main towns and villages of Bolivia. The "mestizo-cholo" presence is also known due to its great vitality who not only travelled during festivities, at parties in the public square, but also to private social places where wayñu dances were common. However, there is no official documentation that tells how the soundscapes from the Bolivian military regiments were, like the independence and realistic regiments, or how the musical organization from these military regiments were formed, or if they even existed at that time.

What were the musical instruments used by armies to generate an acoustic of war? There are very few records available referring to the sound production during the war of independence, and among those, there are only indirect references.

The receipts of payments given to the troops of the Crown, from the Royal Property (de la Real Hacienda) from their accounting books, from the Province of Cochabamba in 1810 which were preserved in the archives of Lima, are among the few documents that contain information regarding military music production. These documents, report the economic retribution to military personnel, and show the presence of individuals called “drums” in the realistic armies. Each company had a drummer who was in charge of playing their instrument as an essential musical element in campaigns, although some army groups do not report it. Interestingly, there is evidence that these musicians received a payment of 17 pesos, a high payment compared to other troops showing that the musicians in the military possessed a high status within each regiment.

These limited data available also shows that the realist regiments did not have a whole band, and that the military sonority was reduced to the sound of the drum. Other sources indicate that the ground-based regiments had soldiers called clarines that used the clarinet to announce attacks or retreats.

The musician and military composer Rigoberto Sainz, who in an article dedicated to the Military bands of Bolivia pointed out that the guerrillero José Miguel Lanza`s had in his army, a band with musicians who were recruited from the provinces of Inquisivi, Yungas, Sica Sica, Ayopaya and Tapacarí, who played the drums and the sikus. It might have been with this band, directed by the Sergeant Major Ismael Crespo that he and his Regiment “Colorados de Bolivia” entered victoriously into the city of La Paz - after the victory of Ayacucho in January 1825. Furthermore, Sainz stated within his article that the troops of independence gave the impression to have had their own bands which were accompanied by smaller bands. Sainz also wrote that the drums were an important instrument inside `The Liberator Army` (ejercitos libertadores), which is evidenced by the soldiers of independence, such as Don José Santos Vargas who was also known as "El Tambor Vargas".

Volunteer Cavalry regiments of the Province of Cochabamba, 1810.

Source: Prof. Documents from the Real Hacienda de la Cuenca in 1810, Tome 2. Real Hacienda. Inv Reg. 1. Doc. Legajo 163. Year 1810. AGN Lima.

In conclusion, one thing is clear from the period of independence: that the war generated new soundscapes associated to the army mobilization of all society. Whether realistic of revolutionary, marching troops, galloping horses, the sound of artillery, crowded town council meetings, protests , tears and echoes of swords and gun shots became the new soundscapes and every day sounds of Bolivian towns, villages and cities.

Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas article was translated thanks to the agreement between Projects Abroad and the of Department of Lingüistica

Aplicada a la Enzeñanza de Lenguas - Faculty Advisor
Mgr. Mónica Ruiz
Translated by:
Jenny Lara
Cecibel Villca
Miguel Angel
Ricardo Borda

Gildaro Antezana

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