Used to accompany such dances as the flamenco and the seguidilla, the castanets have also found a place in the orchestra, usually in pieces inspired by Spanish folklore. They are easily recognized due to their characteristic sound produced by two small, shell-shaped pieces of wood, struck one against the other.
Did you know?
The traditional playing technique is reputed to be extremely difficult. The castanets are placed in the palm of one hand and played with the fingers so that the two hollowed sides of the instruments collide.
It should come as no surprise that these musical excerpts come from works inspired by Spanish folklore, even though none of the composers are Spanish themselves! Members of the woodwind family are featured in each excerpt. In the first excerpt by Debussy, we hear a beautiful clarinet solo, and another percussion instrument that you may recognize, the tambourine.
Images pour orchestre, II. Ibéria : I. Par les rues et par les chemins
Capriccio espagnol: V. Fandango asturiano
Rapsodie espagnole: IV. Feria