December 6, 2009
One of the leading musical forms that emerged from the classical music period is the kundiman, today considered a Filipino cultural attribute in the same breath as the barong tagalog. It is perhaps the fortune of the kundiman to belong to the Tagalog and the language of the leading ancestors of art music in the emerging nation-state. In this manner, the kundiman has developed into a national symbol of Filipino artistic expression, mainly due to the interest and efforts of the art music composers in their search for sources of identity for their collective expression.
From its confined beginnings as another oral form of expression of the Tagalog, the kundiman is traced to old modal tune formulas such as the kumintang and awit that were used by a person to sing improvise verses of love and passion. The first formally written kundiman, in the form of a composition, which is fitted with contemporary poetry, all use melodic quotations from models, evolving in the process a formal framework of the kundiman as an artistic composition. They include Santiago’s Cancion Filipino “Anak ng Dalita” (1917), Bonifacio Abdon’s “Kundiman” (1920), and Nicanor Abelardo’s “Kung Hindi Man” (1920). In association with the different prescriptions of the classical kundiman is the close artistic collaboration between the poet and the composer. These compositions also embody such formal parameters as the 2 to 3 part structure, the slow 3-beat-meter time, and the close-relationship between the text and music in terms of tone painting and other symbolic compositional devices.
The kundiman has provided a form that could best express this highly emotional flood of infatuated sentiments in Filipino art music, to the magnitude that the term kundiman has developed its semantic meaning from being a particular form of vocal music to a song genre of love compositional prescriptions. And just like other self-contained and restricted literary-musical forms such as haiku, the kundiman challenged the poet-composer’s artistic imagination and craft to their creative