Volume 5, no. 1: Spring, 1999 / Editor: William Summers / Web Layout: Michael O'Connor 


From left to right, Cristina Magaldi, Walter Clark, 
Emilio Ros-Fábregas and José Carreras.

REFLECTIONS—BOSTON 1998
Deborah Schwartz-Kates
University of Texas at San Antonio
January 1999

I will always remember the Boston meeting of the Hispanic Music Study Group for its high scholarly standards and strong spirit of camaraderie. This year’s session dealt with the impact of nationalism on Hispanic music historiography.  For those of us with specialized interests in the field, it proved an engaging session that expanded our scholarly vistas, challenged our conventional beliefs, and addressed critical issues raised by previous research. Yet for others with more generalized interests, the session also had widespread application since one of its central tenets was to shown how nationalist ideology potentially influences anyone engaged in the practice of historical narration and research.
Friday evening’s papers reflected a diversity of approaches, yet revealed a unity of purpose. Rooted in post-colonial critical theory, they refuted images of a stereotypical, exoticized "other" in order to lead Hispanic composers out of the periphery into the musical mainstream. The Boston study session framed this issue in terms of the capacity of nationalist ideology to marginalize Hispanic composers outside the "universal" canon. The session’s or-ganizer, Emilio Ros-Fábregas (Boston University), proposed this topic with the hope that, by correcting historiographical errors created by "nationalist tics," Hispanic music would achieve greater representation within the international scholarly community.
Professor Ros-Fábregas established the central theoretical premises of the session with his well-argued paper on "Musicological Nationalism or How to Market Spanish Olive Oil." His clever title suggests a pertinent analogy between Spanish authorities (who compete for their nation’s fair share of European olive oil subsidies) and Hispanicist scholars (who strive to earn their rightful recognition in the musicological "marketplace"). According to Ros-Fábregas, both groups have impeded their own progress by alienating the very powers they need to promote their own agendas. While it is true that Spanish musicologists, for example, frequently justify such insularity as a legitimate refusal to cooperate with "others" who have misrepresented them, the ultimate effect is self-defeating. Regrettably, the author suggests that "our own nationalist attitude may be, paradoxically, our worst enemy."(I)
Following Ros-Fábregas’s overview of the subject, the following paper focused on a single, related issue. Here, Juan José Carreras (Universidad de Zaragoza) masterfully deconstructed the myth of Spanish musical creation, as evidenced in the works of Mariano Soriano Fuertes and Felipe Pedrell. (II) His paper persuasively demonstrated how such composers strategically constructed an image of their age as a resurgence of a remote Hispanic past and a re-awakening from centuries of cultural decadence. On a personal level, I found this paper gratifying because it successfully explained an issue that had long troubled me: why Spanish historiographical accounts had exaggerated the dominance of Italian opera as the primary (if not the sole) catalyst for effecting a culturally complex nationalist movement. Carreras’s paper insightfully explored this issue by suggesting that Soriano and Pedrell exploited their own authorial powers to promote their personal ambitions as operatic composers by devaluing their foreign competitors. His astute correction of the historical record came as a welcome change; at the same time it left one eagerly awaiting the new historical narratives that would substitute in its place, created by the dynamic group of Spanish scholars that Ros-Fábregas and Carreras clearly represent.
The third speaker of the evening focused on the critical reception of the Iberian composer, Isaac Albéniz. In his impressively-presented paper, (III) Walter Clark (University of Kansas) demonstrated how outsiders variously constructed images of Albéniz’s Spanish identity based on exoticist stereotypes of the passionate, mysterious "other." His paper made the important point of demonstrating how such representations conditioned the internal construction of identity. As a striking example, Albéniz mythified his own ethnic origins by disguising his Catalan and Basque parentage behind projections of darker, "Moorish" images. Professor Clark skillfully exposed the contradiction between such misrepresentations and the compelling documentary evidence to the contrary. Most importantly, he affirmed that the idea of nationalism is not always an external label imposed by outsiders, but one that, in Albéniz’s case, resonated deeply with the composer’s internal convictions. Through his imaginative critical analysis of the Suite española (1886), Clark convincingly suggested that Albéniz’s combination of diversified regional themes reflected his desire to achieve a unified Spain and an integration of its cultural heritage.
The final paper of the evening, presented by Cristina Magaldi (Towson University), problematized the binary opposition of "national" and "universal" music in evaluating the contributions of Brazilian composers. (IV) Her powerful presentation argued that the nationalist ideology of Mário de Andrade provided the Brazilian intellectual basis for extolling the former at the expense of the latter. By prescribing the idealized features of Brazilian cultivated music, Andrade charted its future directions. He vigorously promoted a Modernist aesthetic, while retaining a negative view of the past, rejecting former Europeanized composers such as Antonio Carlos Gomes. Yet, according to Magaldi, it is precisely because Gomes succeeded in terms of the dominant elite that he should be regarded as significant. The triumph of his opera Il Guarany at La Scala (1870) represented Brazilian acceptance within the "international" sphere and symbolized the composer’s artistic transformation from the "periphery" into the musical "center." Nevertheless, in an alarming conclusion to her paper, Magaldi suggests that Il Guarany and similar works face an endangered fate. Because they show little if any musical evidence connecting them with the taxonomic category of "nationalism" (wherein non-European works are inserted within the historiographical discourse), their localized features run the risk of being exaggerated to ensure their inclusion—albeit a marginalized and misleading one—within the musicological canon.
The session concluded with a reading of translated excerpts from a paper by Malena Kuss (University of North Texas), whose outside commitments prevented her from attending the session) was unavailable at the time of publication.(V) Since the hour was late, the discussion of all the papers was brief, but the lively social gathering that followed provided ample opportunity for those who were present to speak individually with the panel participants.
The Boston session expressed important concerns about the conceptualization of nationalism and its implications for musicological research. Like any effective presentation, it posed viable solutions at the same time that it raised future concerns. One issue for further consideration relates to the title of the session: "The Idea of Nationalism in Musicological Discourse: Its Impact on Iberian and Latin American Music History."  Clearly, the "idea of nationalism" has never been well-understood, and the session’s participants conceived of it variously within the context of their papers. Since the study group’s intention was to demonstrate the (largely negative) implications of the nationalist "idea," its terminological clarification would have strengthened the theoretical basis of the session.
Clearly, much of the difficulty stems from the inadequacy of existing nationalist definitions. Faced with unacceptable theoretical formulations (in canonized sources such as the Harvard Dictionary of Music), (VI) coupled with their complicity in de-valuing and marginalizing Hispanic composers, one is tempted to discard the term altogether. Yet, as an important Falla scholar attending the session [Michael Christoforidis] pointed out during the question-answer period, one would hate to eliminate a term of so much value to composers in shaping their aesthetic and socio-cultural affiliations. Several of the papers suggested at least some concurrence with this idea, as in Juan José Carreras’s statement that:

In spite of the deserved critical attack [on Pedrell’s nationalistic aesthetic program] ... we should not forget that this historical image was aesthetically productive and that such an influential work as El retablo de maese Pedro (1923) by Manuel de Falla, pupil and admirer of Pedrell, cannot be understood without the direct influence of the ideas of Pedrell linking musical past with popular tradition. (VII) A threefold question then emerges. Should we: 1) preserve existing nationalist definitions (in spite of their limitations), 2) re-shape their formulation to illuminate composer-centered contexts of aesthetic creation, or 3) reject them categorically for their implicit violation of contemporary standards of race, nationality, and ethnicity? If, on some level, we accept that the "idea of nationalism" is still valid, then we need to decide whether existing theoretical models (such as that of Carl Dahlhaus, cited by Walter Clark) will suffice, or whether alternative conceptualizations (such as that suggested by Malena Kuss in the translated excerpts from her paper) should be formulated. Although ul-timately it may be impossible for all of us to agree on "the idea of nationalism," the resulting discourse would aid in the clarification of issues central to Hispanic musical research.
Finally, the session underscored a subtext of serious concern to all who attended: the inadequate representation of Hispanic music within the scholarly literature. As an example of such neglect, Professor Ros-Fábregas cited the exclusion of substantive Hispanic documents in the revised edition of Oliver Strunk’s Source Readings in Music History. (VIII) His quotation of Baroque editor Margaret Murata and her apology for omitting documentation from "Spain and its far-flung colonies" only reinforced the notion that detrimental concepts of "center" and "periphery" continue to pervade our historiographical discourse. Personally, I found such omissions disturbing, particularly since they reinforced my own experiences as a fledgling tenure-track faculty member. Earlier this year when I struggled to select materials for my music history classes, virtually every textbook I examined (whether for graduates, undergraduates, music majors, or general students) excluded Hispanic music from the conversation. On a positive note, I did feel gratified to observe that certain types of previously underrepresented music (such as that of North America) had made significant inroads into canonical texts. At the same time, I wondered if Hispanicists could learn important lessons from those who succeeded at achieving representation.
Through attending the Boston Hispanic Music Study Session I became increasingly aware of the problem and its potential solutions. As Professor Ros-Fábregas remarked in the conclusion of his paper: Our musical patrimony is enormous and very valuable, but we should know how to fight for it more efficiently and how to present it in better ways to others ... I sincerely believe that the scholarly community is eager to receive our production, if it is presented properly and without nationalist bias. (IX) I agree with Ros-Fábregas that we all need to concern ourselves with both scholarship and advocacy. One way we could implement this vision is through the collective collaboration of interested members of this group. We might start by targeting canonical texts (such as the Source Readings in Music History) within which we would like to achieve representation. We could then work in small groups to suggest the Hispanic materials relevant to the research designs and intended readerships of the projects selected. Since the authors and publishers we would be contacting would be non-specialists, it would be critical to provide them with a convincing rationale for including Hispanic materials within their works. We would also want to underscore the significance of the resources suggested and to offer practical advice for obtaining the requisite primary sources. Granted, all this takes time and many of us are already very busy. Yet, I firmly believe that such a mission would enhance the scholarly stature of Hispanic music—one of the primary objectives that motivated the Boston 1998 Study Session.



(I)Ros-Fábregas, "Musicological Na-tionalism or How to Market Spanish Olive Oil." Newsletter of the International Hispanic Music Study Group 4 (Spring /Fall 1998): 8. An expanded version of this paper appears as: "Historiografía de la música en las catedrales españolas: nacionalismo y positivismo en la investigación musicológica." CODEXXI 1 (1998): 68-135.

(II)Death and Ressurection: The Founding Myth of Spain’s Musicl Historiography".

(III)"’To Languish or to Stab’: Constructions of ‘Spanishness’ in Music Criticism of the Late Ninteenth Century."

(IIII)"The Nationalist Interpretation of the Brazilian Musical Past: the Writings of Mário de Andrade (1893-1945)".

(V)Regretably, the final version of Professor Kuss’s paper (wherein a new definition of musical nationalism was proposed ) was unavailable at the time of publication. "The Master Myth of Musical Natio

(VI)Willi Apel, "Nationalism," Harvard Dictionary of Music, 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), 564-65. This definition has failed to undergo substantive revision in Don Michael Randel’s article in The New Harvard Dictionary of Music (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1986), 527.

(VII)Carreras.

(VIII)Carl Dahlhaus, "Nationalism and Music," in Between Romanticism and Modernism: Four Studies in the Music of the Later Nineteenth Century, trans. Mary Whittall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 79-101, cited in Clark {Pressplease add the remainder of Walter’s citation with a page reference to the Dahlhaus attribution].

(IX)Strunk, Oliver ed. Source Readings in Music History. Revised ed. (New York: W. W. Norton), 520, cited in Ros-Fábregas, 11.

(X)Ros-Fábregas, 12.


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News and Notes
 

 
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Individuals and institutions wishing to participate in the International Hispanic Music Study Group may contact the coordinator at the addresses given below.  William Summers, Coordinator
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