Re-post from Bro. Carl Jones email distribution 03/20/12:
With March 6th, the date of the fall of the Alamo behind us, I have had some time to re-read all the comments and discussions that occurred during the day-by-day review of the theSiege of the Alamo.
One of the most frequently discussed topics was El DeGuello – the bugle call used by the Mexican Army.
“Degüello” is derived from the word “degollar”, averb that means “to cut the throat.” More figuratively, itmeans “give no quarter.” It signifies the act of beheading orthroat-cutting and in Spanish history became associated with the battlemusic, which, in different versions, meant complete destruction of theenemy without mercy.
Of the several versions of the song you can find on the internet, myfavorite (and probably, I think, the most accurate) is the recording byMasonic brother Ron Lawrence. I asked Ron about his research forthe recording, and here is his reply:
“To answer your question as to how DeGuello might have sounded onMarch 6, 1836: I analyzed the tune from a musical and logisticalperspective.
First of all, I tried to think what a small field band would sound like,trying to play a piece of music under very trying circumstances. The sizeof Santa Anna’s band would have most been likely small by today’sstandards. Since Santa Anna’s army was first and foremost a fightingunit, he would have wanted more fighters and fewer support personnel. Icould imagine 6-10 musicians, max.
The tune was most likely performed mostly in unison, with little harmony,because unison melodies carry further than several harmony parts. It was definitely not played in a flowery style. That is the way Irecorded it, 3 trumpets repeating the melody.
In addition, it was probably played with a moderate tempo, not real fast& showy, and I doubt it was played like a dirge. I think the recentmovie “The Alamo” version was a little too slow. My tempo is 78beats per minute. With the Hispanic influence, I suspect that the dotted16th notes and 32nd notes were played very short and staccato tongued(like in my version). I doubt that much time was taken between eachsection, with the space simply like a quarter rest to give the brassplayers a short rest & time to breath for the next phrase.
There most likely were a couple drummers present at The Alamo who wereadept at playing cadences for marching. That is another reason I feelthat the tempo chosen to play “DeGuello” was a moderate one,much like a march beat one would hear on a military parade field.
The last note was most likely strong and long, unlike the recent Alamomovie version. This version allowed the last note to sort of dwindle outand die in an anemic fashion. I doubt that was the way they playedit. As you know, DeGuello was a warning and threat. Allowing thetune to die out did not serve the meaning of the song. I would like tothink that my version is more to the original intent of the piece.
According to author Walter Lord, DeGuello was “a hymn of hate andmerciless death, played to spur the Mexican troops forward in their finalassault on the Alamo.” It was to that sentiment that I tried torecord my version of “DeGuello.” The DeGuello is believedto have Moorish roots, and probably during the Crusades was borrowed bythe Spanish, & then much later carried to Mexico as a battlecharge.”
You can hear a snippet of this carefully analyzed and historically-basedrecording by visiting Ron’s website and clicking on the button next to ElDeGuello at: http://www.ronlawrencemusic.com/ringtones.html and download the full version as a ringtone for your phone.
I have purchased this song and installed it as my ringtone on my iphone – I guarantee I’m going to get some questions about that!!
Chairman, Grand Lodge of Texas History Committee