Volume 5, no. 2: Spring, 1999/Editorial Address: Music Department, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755 

Seventh Annual Study Session
International Hispanic 
Music Study Group
Hyatt Regency Grand Center
Kansas City, Missouri
8:00 PM
Saturday, November 6, 1999

The Interaction of Traditional and Art Musics in the Hispanic World

Leonora Saavedra (University of Pittsburgh), Chair

Bernardo Illari (University of Chicago)
Ricardo Lorenz (University of Chicago)
Cristina Magaldi (Towson University)
Alvaro Torrente (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Luisa Vilar (Universidad de las Américas, Puebla)

Malena Kuss (University of North Texas), Respondent


Bernardo Illari (University of Chicago)

The commonplace manuscript compiled by Gregorio de Zuola in and around Cusco (Peru) towards the end of the seventeenth century contains a dozen of songs notated as monodies. Several of them can be traced back to polyphonic tonos humanos (secular songs). Zuola’s versions, though, have been so transformed that they no longer can be sung together with the rest of the original voices of the earlier polyphonic versions. My presentation argues that they constitute a rare witness of the transference of a written Baroque repertoire to oral tradition. I further approach the matter from the perspective given by the urban and rural contexts where the songs were performed, and explore the implications for postcolonial theory of such a transmission of a hegemonic repertoire to a colonial set up.

Ricardo Lorenz (University of Chicago)

Musical nationalism is the paradigmatic mode of representation imposed upon the art music of Latin America. Rather than shedding light, this characterization has hindered the objective analysis of some of the most significant works created in this continent and obscured the importance of their role in the development of Western music. A dramatic result of this reality is our inability to associate works that manipulate folk and popular music with any motivating forces other than nationalism. My presentation takes this predicament as a point of departure and proposes alternative modes of representation. I will demonstrate how Latin-American composers commonly associated with the nationalist dogma were actually whole-hearted modernists, much more interested in being associated with the cosmopolitan sphere of music to which European composers belonged rather than in being constrained by the parochial and archaic boundaries of nationalism. I will argue that in Latin America, the so-called "universalist" and "nationalist" styles of composition, while appearing to be aesthetically different, are two sides of the same ideological coin. Both represent responses to a dilemma particular to the Latin-American composer: how to address the great internal social-ethnic divide while remaining strongly affiliated to a Western European Zeitgeist that arose in the early 20th century and consolidated in the period between the World Wars. Finally, I will underscore the fact that the works of many Latin-American composers belonging to the youngest generation active today represent a valuable laboratory to understand the relation between popular and folk music, local social struggle, and cosmopolitan aesthetic changes. How to achieve a musical discourse out of this complex relationship, I argue, is the common preoccupation that ties together the older generation of composers—Villa-Lobos, Chávez, Re-vueltas, Ginastera—with the current one.

Cristina Magaldi (Towson State University)

"Looking at the past through today’s lenses: the case of 19th-century music in Brazil"

Although historians have repeatedly warned that our views of the past are shaped by today’s biases, we continue to fall into the trap of forging the past with modern tools. Studies on music making in 19th-century Latin-American cities are particularly susceptible to this pitfall. Both musicology and ethnomusicology are relatively recent disciplines, with boundaries that reflect our contemporary understanding of art, traditional and popular musics. The separation between the two disciplines also mirrors our present-day, one-sided view of Western European art as unique, unparalleled and/or universal. This presentation will show that both the musicological and the ethnomusicological approaches by themselves possess limited methodological tools for the study of music making in the newly formed Latin-American cities of the past century. Using Rio de Janeiro’s active musical life as an example, I will also consider the problem of imposing 20th-century distinctions (art, traditional, popular) on 19th-century in Latin America.

Alvaro Torrente (Royal Holloway, University of London)

"Secular elements in the 17th-century Spanish villancico: a popular contamination of ‘high culture’?"

From around the turn of the 16th century, the sacred villancico, which had clear popular origins, became a genre cultivated by learned musicians and remained in commom use for several centuries. The genre incorporated the style and technique of learned music of each successive historical period, for example, that of the madrigal in the late 16th century, or the cantata in the 18th century. Interestingly, popular elements never disappeared from the genre. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, a number of folk-like elements can be traced, particularly in the villaancicos for the Christmas season, such as the use of well known secular dances, the presentation of popular characters, or the adoption of theatrical resources borrowed either from improvised street dramas or stage genres. Contemporary moralists constantly censored these tendencies, to the point that the use of villancicos in a convent in Madrid was eventually persecuted by the Inquisition. Modern scholars have inherited the same prejudices and tend to regard the presence of popular and secular elements in baroque villancicos as inappropriate for music meant to be performed in church, particularly if it regarded as a form of high culture. This presentation demonstrates that secular elements are by no means a "contamination" of learned and sacred music but a consequence of the origins and function of the Christmas villancico. It challenges the historiographical myth of Spanish music as the quintessence of national religiosity and mysticism, and revises the relationship between the sacred ad the secular spheres in early modern Spain.

Luisa Vilar (Universidad de las Américas, Puebla)

In 1941, just a few months after the death of Silvestre Revueltas, Aaron Copland described him in the following terms: "Revueltas was the spontaneously inspired type of composer, whose music was colorful, picturesque and gay. Unfortunately, he never was able to break away from a certaain dilettantism that makes his best work suffer from sketchy workmanship" (Our New Music, 1941). Sadly, for more than three quarters of a century similar ideas have permeated the literature about Revueltas. Both friends and detractors have manipulated information trying to accommodate the stereotypes they wanted to promote. Even those who argue that Revueltas is the best Mexican composer of his time avoid engaging his music from formal and harmonic perspectives, as if analysis would kill the idea of the spontaneous genius and thus diminish the value of the music. A brief analytical presentation of Duo para Pato y Canario (1931) will draw attention to the compositional depth with which Revueltas handles complex issues of identity  embedded in his musical output.


Profound thanks go to Professor Leonora Saavedra and Margarita Restrepo for their contributions to this issue of the Newsletter. Ms. Restrepo is in the Ph.D. program in musicology at Brandeis University.  I call the recording of the music she discusses in her article to the attention of our readers.

Professor John Koegel, University of Missouri, has kindly agreed to organize the Study Session for the meeting in Toronto in 2000.  You may contact him by e-mail if you would like to discuss that session.  [KoegelJ@missouri.edu]

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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, International
Hispanic Music Study Group
Music Department
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755 
U. S. A.
Telephone: (603) 646-3310
e-mail: wjsmus@dartmouth.edu
fax: (603) 646-2551 

Last updated: 23 November, 2000