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canario timbrado

Justifying an Opinion on the Canary Called Spanish Timbrado


By Antonio Drove Aza, Pajaros no. 13, 1961
Translated from the Spanish by Sebastian Vallelunga

(Note by the translator: This article is one recommended by Luis Sanchez, a real help and support for American timbradistas, who persuaded me to translate it for the group. The original Spanish version can be found in the Historical section of the Spanish Timbrado canary website, along with many other fantastic resources, at: Mr. Sanchez feels that this article is a classic which is authored by one of the historical greats in the culture of Spanish song canaries--trans.)

We have seen various articles published in this magazine, with the motive of investigating the song of the canario del Pais, which uphold criteria very much different from one another on the song as well as the name of the Spanish timbrado. One group which does not recognize any other song nor name, insists that one must continue to call the birds timbrados and persist in applying the actual "Codex of the Spanish Timbrado"; others believe that this name is absurd because the timbres, as defined in the Codex, are rolls and, therefore, are not basic themes of this mode of song, and so timbrado is a misnomer; others, finally, believe that changing from "timbrado" to "Spanish" and keeping to the actual directives of the Codex, are sufficient to follow the cultural effort undertaken in the breeding of this interesting canary; its breeders should not heed the confusion and disorientation caused by the various repeated criticisms which are in part the intention of their exponents.

We must convince everyone that there never existed, on anyone's part, even the smallest bit of animosity toward the cultivation of good canarios del Pais. That which could be taken as ruinous intention is no more than a proper consequence of the lack of comprehension of the technical concepts applied by those who cultivate this modality of song, and I am sure that there would be a more favorable disposition toward, and a greater success of, a discussion of technical criteria, if in the conscience of all aficionados of good will, there existed more firmly an understanding of what, in general, the song of these birds is.

Disgracefully, there have been instilled in the minds of the breeders of the canario del Pais, certain mistaken technical principals and concepts, which are very difficult to uproot, mainly a prejudice against the personality of the roller fancy and what it intends. Those of us who, over the course of many years, have participated in the culture of the roller, are or should be, contrary to general appearances, in a much better technical condition to interpret what bird song is.

The first confusing idea which is sustained by the breeders of the canario del Pais, and which is precisely and clearly foreseeable, is the belief that only the names of the notes of the roller canary would be applied to the song of this race of canaries, when in reality there are many wild canaries which emit similar notes, if only for that reason we must name the tours using different forms, those adopted internationally, or in the corresponding translation of each of the countries.

We all know that birds, even of the same species, never sing exactly the same way. Nevertheless, if we analyze the songs of different individuals, we will observe a certain similarity of structure and phonetic composition in certain passages; some sing it in a fast rhythm, others perfectly modulate it with pleasant vocalizations, others express it languidly. Definitely, one note can captivate with various characteristics depending on the temperaments of the birds and, above all, on the particular conditions and faculties of their respective song producing organs, in that these are liable to cause variations in the tonality and depth in conjunction with the physical conditions responsible for resonance, especially the shape of the bucal cavity and the movement of the beak.

The flute notes produced by a nightingale, linnet, greenfinch, thrush, etc., etc., are similar, because the phonetic structure is similar, differentiation occurs only in the rhythm (more or less quickly), in the modulation (voice inflection), in the tone (grave, sharp, deep, muffled), and in the form of expression (hard, severe, happy, sad). They are all flutes, and, without exception, in spite of the name flute, not because of it, this note is distinctive in the roller canary.

Equally, this occurs with the trills or water notes, cloqueos (glucks--trans.), cascabeleos (jingle bells--trans.), in both their simple and composite forms, and, in spite of there being very many types of birds which emit them in various phrases, each with a particular rhythm, modality, tonality, and form of expression, we must still apply the proper corresponding name to each sound when any bird executes it.

Rolls, on the other hand (read here: timbres that are high, medium, or low, according to the Codex), alone are properly and dominantly definitive of the roller canary, and are used by very few wild birds: the serin or chamariz, with its varied repertoire of intermixed and imperfect timbred rolls, and the greenfinch, with its "torreos", both short and long. We shall later see the difference between a roll (a "timbre", according to the Codex) and a timbre (a cascabeleo, according to the same Codex).

As an old-time cultivator and modest expert on the production of good song in the canario del Pais, it is logical for me to voice my nonconformity, both verbally and in writing, with the first intention of creating and establishing a standardized song type which was beyond being simply antagonizing toward the roller: First, it sought to establish a race of canarios del Pais of 16 cm length (about 6 1/4 inches--trans.), to antagonize the "Spanish canary" proposed by the U. C. of Barcelona at the Avicultural Congress held in Madrid in 1948, a proposal which received approbation with the good pleasure of those, precisely, who later attempted to establish a standard which is antagonizing toward the diminutive "Spanish canary". Later, in 1951, before the fracas of the enormous and rather ordinary canary which they intended to establish, it was considered, and wisely so, that size was of secondary importance, giving way to the importance of the song, so that the actual Codex was established, compiling, after laborious interpretations, the meritorious notes which later came to define the new Spanish timbrado canary.

It is logical that those who knew no other modality of song of the Pais than that sung by mixed and ordinary canaries, translated inexact concepts into the Codex, precisely those of the false appreciation of the impure canaries but without, up to that date and in spite of all other considerations, at least excusing all previous error.

In my opinion, there exist, among others, three fundamental errors, which will be later demonstrated, that are innate in the makeup of the Codex: first, the false name of Spanish timbrado, due to the erroneous concept of the timbre, for this motive as well as the considering of this modality of song as basic and thus encouraging rolls (more or less imperfect), which are always improper to the canario del Pais. Second, the encouraging, in the same way, of coarseness of expression in regards to the phonetic texts of those notes of merit which were established, and third, not having more precisely included the water variations (splashes) as basic to this song and these, either alone or exchanged with the cloqueos or accompanied by flutes, are those which must constitute the song of a good canario del Pais, completely distinct from the cadenced and severe roller.

This modality of song, which had been previously praised and which repeatedly attempted to instill its cultivation among the aficionados of the canario del Pais, had existed effectively and we remember with nostalgia the old-time Spanish breeders: it was the song of the celebrated canaries of Vich, the city of my birth, in this Catalan locality we cultivated it in my childhood and this meritorious song was known beyond the region for not containing disagreeable notes and, instead, having a multitude of variations which were well vocalized and modulated, in a repertoire of contrasting diverse tonalities, in which, beyond recognizing beautiful and meritorious clapoteos (splashes--trans.), cloqueos, and extremely variable flutes, one could hear expressed complete stanzas of the nightingale's song reproduced with discreet depth and delicate tone of voice.

Disgracefully, this song was lost due to unfortunate crosses: first, with the Holland canary (Dutch or Northern frill), as a consequence the products were gawky and also inherited a truly ordinary song with consequent "chiau-chiaus" and "piau-piaus" which were never really accepted by the most prestigious breeders of Vich. A short time later, due to the well-deserved fame acquired by the harz edelroller (German roller or harzer--trans.), the few pure canaries that had escaped crossing were, around the year 1914, crossed with German imports, yielding birds of mixed song with low-quality rolls and rolled timbres and which, instead of raising song quality in general, caused the loss of the characteristic defining mark and unmistakable sound of a happy, beautiful, and meritorious song, which had conquered all the provinces of Spain and elsewhere with its fame.

The snobbery of new types and songs of foreign canaries was the cause of the breeders of Vich, and, in general, of all Spain, to be influenced by the desire to incorporate into their own canaries the characteristics of alien canaries, ruining, in the end, the genuine song, type, and size (12-13 centimeters) of the canary of Vich, transforming it, in a very few years, into what is called the canario del Pais, an ambiguous name accepted not as defining some particular canary for its racial purity, but as indicating morphological irregularities and graded mixture of song. The irregular characteristics are easy to prove by observing actual canaries, and these demonstrate the unfortunate crosses which were the past objective of the breeders of Spain in general.

For this reason, it is no wonder, that those with the best of intentions established the "Codex of the Spanish Timbrado", confusing which certain notes should be considered as basic to this modality of song, when, in reality, what they established was no more than a set of reminiscences, more or less an accusation, of the crosses of yesteryear and that, as we have seen, were those which regrettably compromised the purity of the song of the canary of Vich.

If we pay attention to the composition and phonetic expression of the timbres as they are defined and explained in the "Regulations for Judging Timrado Song", we can verify that what is defined as such are authentic rolls, since they are "sounds produced that are uninterrupted and continuous", and this is shown by the presence of a rapidly struck consonant "r" or "erre" (The Spanish rolled "rr"--trans.) with the vowels, obtaining a repetition or roll, of a quality and artistic appearance of that of a roller canary, which is much more perfect and acknowledged when smooth and free when heard; these are, respectively, consonants and vowels put into motion.

In order to understand the timbre note, it was compared to the acoustic effect of an electric doorbell; in better defining the name adopted, we must not ignore that a rapid tapping (owing to reverberation) of 20-35 times per second on any material: metal, wood, etc., produces similar repetitions or rolls, but of a distinct pitch of sound (tone); the beats of percussion represent the consonants of the phonetic composition, and the vowels are represented by the resonance of the material affected by the percussion, and one perceives a repetition of continuous regular movement, in which the vowel is variable according to the material used. Thus, on crystal or metal we perceive a sound with the vowel "i", and on wood or cardboard we perceive one with the vowels "o" or "u", and we perceive an "e" or "ei" if inadequate or defective material is used (cracked wood, for example), producing in the same way pure repetitions, but of imperfect sound, and for the most part, less agreeable: riririri, rorororo, rererere, reireireirei.

On the other hand, when there is no beat of the consonants on the vowels or, similarly, if the tapping is relatively slow, then we perceive a sound which is interrupted between its syllables, corresponding to a rhythm of 4 to 7 beats per second, we have, not a roll, due to the fact that there is no repetition, but that which is internationally referred to as a "timbre". In the Codex it is called a cascabeleo, a correct name which is perfectly suited, the onomatopoeic sound produced is: lin-lin-lin-lin, and it is much more agreeable when sung very smoothly (with a soft percussion): li-li-li-li-li.

We must accept, without any doubt, that what are called "timbres" in the Codex are in reality rolls no matter how much we would wish to disguise them in the harsh expression and disagreeable vocalizations of some birds; they can always be placed within the rolled character which permits us to see them for what they truly are. As we see it, this erroneous concept of "timbre" has conducted us to give the false name Spanish timbrado, because the presence of the rolls seems to have compelled them to be considered as basic to the song of the canario del Pais.

This grave anomaly within the Codex, apart from the undoubted confusion that it has created, could, in the same way, conduct us to problems in the character of judges, as it is absurd to disqualify a canary for emitting rolls, perfectly and categorically defined as such, when the Codex clearly values them and considers them to be basic.

Nor should chiau-chiaus or piau-piaus be considered as basic to good canario del Pais song. These very ordinary flutes, the same as those called castanets (a variety of cloqueos): chas-chas-chac-chac, have always been a motive to discredit anyone who encouraged them in their canaries. The estimation we maintained in my time, already remote, as breeders of the canary of Vich and which is still maintained by the countries which are most advanced in European canariculture, is the use of the spiteful term "choppers" for the canaries that emit these rude expressions which are truly disagreeable.

If the breeders of the canario del Pais will recognize that the chiau-chiaus and piau-piaus, pronounced onomatopoeically, produce a disagreeable impression, and if equally they recognized tomorrow, that the castanets with their very ordinary "trallazos" do not lend themselves to being freely heard, and if, in the same way, the "timbres", with their rolls in "e" and "ei" produce nasal and cracked sounds, we must still admit as certain the second error of the Codex, that it promotes a hardness of expression, incompatible with and inadmissible to the properly educated work of canariculture: the unfolding of art, not the creation of ugliness.

Whoever has an idea about the song of canaries and various birds and has heard the canario del Pais, has observed that a good part of its song is unfolded in imperfections, while, in the end, true water variations both simple and in combination, do not figure into the Codex as well-defined notes which should be stimulated and bettered through cultivation. The song organs of the pure canarios del Pais, are physically the best known for emitting these with perfection due to the innate predisposition toward this modality of watery song.

With this article I have attempted to justify the "why" behind my repeated criticism of the Spanish timbrado and, at the same time, to help all those who I feel affection for to understand the principal errors that are maintained by aficionados who breed such song canaries. I don't wish to cite testimony which guarantees the correctness of my position as I labor to promote the good aspects of the song of the canario del Pais nor to recall the old-time sayings of the brotherhood in order to establish common, truly technical norms which define that which must be a part of this beautiful and meritorious song. What I wish to do now is to relate a certain "unfortunate" action of mine at the Oviedo contest in 1952, which resulted in a secondary consequence, the discovery of certain pure canarios del Pais (Vich) and whose descendents were, in actuality, sensational at the last contest in the Asturian capital. The events are as follows:

In 1952 I was asked to judge the roller song at the Oviedo contest. Having completed my mission, I was invited to judge, in the same way, the song of the canario del Pais, since I had done this for that mode of song various times in Madrid. My surprise was great when I was presented with score cards printed with the notes of merit outlined by the actual Codex only recently established. Given my own particular criteria on this song, which I had always invariably maintained, I did not accept them and instead judged based on conformity to the general impression of the song of each canary on a predetermined maximum point scale. I don't know if the embarrassment I felt was for my adopted attitude or in response to the distrust reflected in the faces of my listeners, those running the contest, when I told them. Eventually, I had the ultimate satisfaction of completing the judging of the canaries on their conformity to the criteria now known to the readers.

In accord with the absurd way in which Spanish canariculture has conducted itself, I went to Aviles to see some relatives. One of them spoke to me about a friend of his, D. Manuel Gonzalez Monteserin, that owned some canaries that "sang very well" and I was invited to listen to them. It was a great surprise to me to hear those canaries, members of a race that had been totally lost in Vich, although I well remembered their song, type, size, and plumage. Such was the astonishment and joy at this find, that when I returned home to Madrid, I received a newspaper insert called "Voz de Aviles" in a gazette in which the discovery was cited along with the praises merited by these canaries.

This year I have been invited anew to judge the roller contest at Oviedo. Thanks to my friend D. Santiago Ruiz, who was also going there in order to judge the song of the Pais, I had the satisfaction, this time in a double portion, to listen to many good canarios del Pais that caused a sensation; afterwards, their breeder D. Vicente Arguelles Villaverde asked me to recall my discovery of nine years earlier, and told me that the canaries I had been admiring came through certain crosses from the canaries I had seen in Aviles and had been publicly acknowledged in the newspaper of that Asturian city, whose canaries had been preserved.

You will permit me, in modesty, to commend Mr. Arguelles who did not widen the repertoire of the song of his canaries with those "notes" which are claimed to be basic to the canario del Pais. He possesses a very good lineage which can be further purified, procuring an even greater possible modulation, diction, and free vocalization, of all the notes, and stimulating the water variations, cloqueos, and flutes. With these notes, in their simple and combined forms, there will be obtained a true song of great merit, which would cause a great sensation at the international contests.

Let me repeat now what I stated publicly in Oviedo, invited by my friend Ruiz, when listening to this lot of canaries: "This is what we must expect of the Spanish song canary; everything else that has been praised is false and absurd."

Is it possible to establish a new Codex which would compile all of the beauty and variation with which the canaries of this song mode are capable of delighting us? We sincerely believe the answer to be yes. The Spanish affection holds the key.

(Note by the translator: My personal feeling is that although the events described in this article and even the theories expressed on the Spanish song canaries may seem remote, there are certainly many lessons for us to learn here. The first is that we must avoid blocking any Spanish song canary of meritorious voice by establishing our own "Codex" in such a way that is too restrictive or too shortsighted, while at the same time allowing for the elimination of faulty tours and a consequent improvement of our birds in general. The stated goals of the USTF are a perfect example of the correct way to approach this issue. We must be ever vigilant in maintaining an openness and spirit of inclusivity: there must be plenty of room for birds of the classic, intermediate, and floreado lines to be successful before the judge. And, any set of rules which might cause the preference of one line over another would obviously be inappropriate--trans.)


© Antonio Drove Haza
© Translation Sebastian Vallelunga


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