Paper Session
Nov 12, 2021 06:00 PM - 06:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211112T1800 20211112T1850 America/Chicago Colonial Contact Zones during the 19th and Early 20th Centuries AMS 2021
“Only Verdi Writes for a Living”: Music History, Colonialism, and Giovanni Miani’s Search for Origins
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/12 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/12 20:50:00 UTC

This paper focuses on Giovanni Miani (1810-1872) who in the 1860s became famous for expeditions to Africa in search of the source of the Nile. Trained as an opera composer, vocalist, and scholar of music, Miani also studied physics and history at the University of Padua in the 1840s. This polymathic education allowed him to formulate an approach to music that went far beyond the curriculum of the typical Italian conservatory. In his unfinished Storia Universale della musica di tutte le nazioni [Universal History of the Music of all Nations] (1846) he positions sound as the mediator of man's relationship with environment, labor, and the divine. Building from the Biblical creation story, he suggests that antediluvian peoples created instruments from natural materials in order to sing their praises to God, imitating the reeds that sang in the wind as much as the birds in the trees. Miani also worked comparatively, drawing attention to boatmen and sailors in different places throughout history who sang while they rowed.

This approach became a point of contention for Italian music critics like Raimondo Boucheron, who reviewed the book's initial chapters after Gioachino Rossini had endorsed the project. Arguing that the study of masterworks must be central to any history of music, Boucheron decried Miani's anthropological focus on music in everyday life. After failing to find a publisher for the complete Storia universale, Miani abandoned music in favor of exploration. However, published accounts of his travels show that he never really gave up on the project. Miani's search for the source of the Nile was also a quest for the source of music, to substantiate the theories articulated in his history. Pushing against the paradigm of the masterwork, Miani's universal music history argued for music's power to connect humans to their environment, to their everyday surroundings. This same belief elevated and granted a veneer of idealism to Miani's claims to the material and anthropological riches of Africa. The case of Miani, then, suggests a new understanding of music's role in colonial enterprises, one in which idealism supports and covers for the extractive activities of colonialism. 

Alessandra Jones
Harvard University
Comparative Musicology and Colonial Survival: The Anxiety around Musical Meaning in Late Nineteenth-Century Siam
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/12 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/12 20:50:00 UTC

In 1900, the royal court of Siam debated whether to grant Boosra Mahin permission to tour his musical troupe to Europe, fearing that the assorted performers in the employ of this low-ranking noble would inevitably represent Siamese court music to the world. The court's fears about presenting Siamese music as exotica in the European concert hall were ultimately eclipsed by the tour's administrative mishaps, which led their sacred repertoire to be featured in the undignified setting of the Berlin Zoo. At this performance, the comparative musicologist Carl Stumpf made the first recordings for the Berlin Phonogram Archive, creating material for his study of the Siamese tuning system in "Tonsystem und Musik der Siamesen" (1901). In analyzing the tuning systems of the world, comparativists of the Berlin school sought a new theory of musical expression in which psychology would replace biology as the basis for human difference.

My paper presents a global-colonial history of Comparative Musicology's inception from the perspective of the Siamese archive. While recent studies have explored the Stumpf circle's extractive analysis of Siamese music (Koch 2013, Mundy 2018), I show that the Siamese court practiced its own comparativist theory in the struggle for colonial survival. Parallel to the European scrutiny of Siamese music, Siamese intellectuals expounded their anxiety about the superiority of European music, particularly its division of the octave into twelve distinct tones, a feat unmatched by Siam's seven-tone system, or that of any other nation. Before Stumpf could hypothesize the origin of Siamese tuning in Buddhist numerology, the court already internalized the idea of the division of the octave as an index for progress and civilizational excellence.

The Siamese music Stumpf heard, then, was less an untouched native essence, but rather a calculated display that balanced between elite cosmopolitanism and national authenticity – indeed already "spoiled by Europeanisms", as Stumpf feared. In confronting imperial threat, Siam understood the strategic importance of self-fashioning a "national culture" for European evaluation. Contrary to a narrative of scientistic extraction, comparative theory was not simply a tool applied to agentless subaltern subjects, but instrumentalized and assimilated for colonial survival.

Presenters Parkorn Wangpaiboonkit
University Of California, Berkeley
Exoticism as Tragedy: Colonial Politics and National Identity in the Tagalog Zarzuela _Minda Mora_ (1904)
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/12 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/12 20:50:00 UTC

Critical studies on musico-theatrical representation have often considered examples found on the Western stage and the different ways such works imagined a distant and exoticized other for its European and American audience. But what if the stage was the Tagalog zarzuela in early twentieth century Manila and those that created and consumed theater were Filipinos who were thinking through ideas about colonial and national identities? The vernacularization of the Spanish-inherited genre in the Philippines saw the zarzuela as a vehicle for moral critique and cultural uplift of its lower-class audience. The playwright Severino Reyes, in particular, favored the zarzuela's realism to critique social vices and the blind religiosity he perceived as legacies of Spanish colonization. With the goal of cultural uplift, Reyes collaborated with Filipino composers to showcase local performers as cosmopolitan artists in their fluency in Western art music. 

While Reyes saw the zarzuela stage as means to counteract the negative portrayals of Filipinos in US colonial rhetoric, a number of his works also featured representational practices that reinforced racial and ethnic difference within the local population. This paper focuses on composer Juan Hernandez and Severino Reyes's 1904 zarzuela _Minda Mora_, which remains as one of the earliest examples of artistic works in the Tagalog language that advocated for the Islamic minorities in the southern region of Mindanao through its protagonist Minda. A closer reading of _Minda Mora_ and its immediate reception, however, reveal the fraught politics of identity formation during the early years of US colonial rule in the Philippines. The work took up discourses on race and civility from the metropole, which in turn animated debates about the existing colorism in the archipelago. But unlike other exoticist works that shaped ideas about the Western "us" versus the Orientalized "them," _Minda Mora_ complicates the binary constructions of the "East" and the "West" as it powerfully critiques racist motivations of white European colonial expansion (i.e. Spain) while remaining ambivalent to US presence in the Philippines.  

Isidora Miranda
Vanderbilt University
Harvard University
Vanderbilt University
University of California, Berkeley
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
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