‘Amanecer’ is the Spanish for dawn. And dawn is what this short duet for violin and cello evoked for me:
Why Spanish? I didn’t set out to write a piece with a Spanish feel but that’s how it turned out. And the reason why it has that feel is because of the exotically-named Phrygian mode.
This mode is used widely in Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Indian music, as well as Flamenco. In fact, it’s sometimes called the Spanish Gypsy scale. You’ll find classical examples as well, including Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade.
This is what it looks like in C:
This short improvisation in E, played on a Martin C000 nylon string guitar, gives an idea of what the scale sounds like:
So, if you ever find yourself coming over all Phrygian, you know it’s time to book a holiday in Andalusia, or at least to visit your local tapas bar.