'Barlande': A Father And Son's Intense Conversation Gaspar Claus and Pedro Soler's collaboration is not strictly flamenco. It channels the raw, pure form of the style they learned from Spanish ex-pats in France to talk across generations.
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'Barlande': A Father And Son's Intense Conversation

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'Barlande': A Father And Son's Intense Conversation

'Barlande': A Father And Son's Intense Conversation

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The relationship between a father and son can be complicated. Simply talking to one another can seem impossible. But an extended conversation has been taking place between one father and son pair with surprising results. Pedro Soler and Gaspar Claus are musicians, separated in age by 45 years. Claus grew up listening to his father, a renowned flamenco guitarist. Now, the two have recorded an album together. NPR's Tom Cole has their story.

TOM COLE: Pedro Soler plays an ancient kind of flamenco, more about the sound and value of each single note than playing a bunch of them.


COLE: Soler learned to play when he was growing up in the south of France surrounded by exiles from Spain.

PEDRO SOLER: I was in Toulouse young after the Civil War in Spain, and all the Republican people was in Toulouse. Toulouse was a capital of the Republic from Spain in the Franco time.

COLE: It was the 1940s and Toulouse became home to dancers and musicians who'd fled the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Soler continues in French.

SOLER: (French language spoken)

COLE: The 73-year-old Soler says he was initiated into flamenco by the exiled artists, that in Toulouse, they were free to perform a more pure form of flamenco that they couldn't under the dictator. Soler mastered the older music and built a reputation accompanying some of the most famous flamenco dancers and singers. They were regular guests at the home the guitarist shared with his wife and two children. But it was classical music and the cello that captured his young son's imagination after hearing a string quartet. Gaspar Claus entered conservatory when he was seven years old and he and his father would sometimes improvise on Baroque music.

GASPAR CLAUS: I remember that we improvised together on the "Folias d'Espana." That was maybe one of my first experiences of improvisation.

SOLER: The flamenco - you know that flamenco is not a written music, it's improvisation with very strong des regles.

CLAUS: Rules.

SOLER: Yes. But we can improvise.


COLE: But after more than a decade of formal studies, Claus says he got fed up with the conservatory's strict approach to technique and repertoire. So, he quit. He didn't touch the cello for five years.

CLAUS: This instrument was in my room and it was silence. You know, a silent instrument is a dead instrument. But for me I felt guilty all this time of having this instrument in my room and not giving him the possibility of giving a sound. And so I came back and I didn't know how to play anymore the cello.

COLE: So, he began experimenting with the sounds he could make by drawing his bow a certain way or at a different place on the strings than his studies had dictated.


BRYCE DESSNER: You know, I think a lot of what they're doing is about sound.

COLE: Bryce Dessner produced the recorded collaboration between father and son.

DESSNER: Pedro has an incredible sound. His guitar sound is just spectacular. Gaspar, his sense of what he's doing is, you know, I mean, half the time it's, you know, he might be playing one note but you're hearing four just based on his use of overtones. He has a very developed sense of the right hand with his bow.


COLE: Pedro Soler says that today, most flamenco has become what he calls nice music.

SOLER: And the flamenco was not that. Was un gritto - a cry.

CLAUS: A scream.

SOLER: Cream?

CLAUS: Scream.

SOLER: Scream. Flamenco is crazy music. And Gaspar, in his way, is developing crazy music. That, for me, that is the most important because the voice of the flamenco artist is not a good voice - it's a true expression, hard expression.


SOLER: (French spoken)

COLE: Pedro Soler says his son expresses himself without constraints while he holds on to the strict rules of flamenco. Yet their collaboration is not strictly flamenco and Soler is not playing the traditional role of accompanist with his son's cello taking the part of the singer. It's a conversation between two equals and it took six years for them to get to the point where they wanted to commit the music to disc. To produce, they called someone they'd gotten to know over the years. Bryce Dessner is best known as the guitarist with the popular rock band The National and a trained classical guitarist. He says things got interesting in the studio.

DESSNER: They have a very special relationship as a family - a very open, very creative, very artistic. They're not afraid to disagree. So, there was a fair amount of me kind of mediating between the two of them. There were hard days. There were days where, you know, one of them would storm out and not speak to the other one for a few hours and then come back and we'd do something incredible. It was a pretty intense process. It went on for about three weeks.

CLAUS: Any relationship with a father is intense.

COLE: Gaspar Claus.

CLAUS: The difference is in the way of expressing this relationship and we play music together. And I think that there are some things that we can tell each other using the music that usually a son and a father has difficulty to express. It's not easy to say I love you to a father. I have always seen my father living with his guitar and I had a lot of fantasy about where he was going and it was like maybe a secret dream of me as a child to follow him and now, I am following him.

COLE: Gaspar Claus says the album came together a bit by itself - a beautiful gift, he calls it, that life gave him and his father, Pedro Soler; a gift he'll cherish for the rest of his life. Tom Cole, NPR News.


CORNISH: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

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