Paper Session
Nov 20, 2021 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211120T1400 20211120T1450 America/Chicago U.S.-Latin American Relations AMS 2021
Aesthetic Wit(h)nessing in Anti-Lynching Songs by Silvestre Revueltas and Carlos Chávez
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

What did allyship in the cause of social justice sound like at the dawn of the US Civil Rights movement? Mexican composers Silvestre Revueltas and Carlos Chávez each wrote one song that repudiates the lynching-murder of Black persons in the United States. In "Canto de una muchacha negra" (1938) Revueltas set Langston Hughes's poem "Song for a Dark Girl." In "North Carolina Blues" (1942) Chávez set a text by his friend, Mexican poet Xavier Villaurrutia. The songs offer opportunities to reconsider certain features of the composers' lives and respective bodies of work. I argue that neither work was intended primarily for a US audience; both carry distinct meanings for audiences within and outside Mexico. Noting calls within musicology to interrogate the white racial frame of its canonical repertory, this paper adumbrates possibilities for the songs' recharged relevance. In them, Revueltas and Chávez pit a Mexican aesthetics of death against violent spectacle and social inequities to assert a universal dignity of life and to situate an anti-racist position within the context of a broader international class struggle. In the process of airing fresh interpretations of the songs I imply that the composers' divergent experiences in the United States--Chávez's relative proximity to establishment structures of power and Revueltas' intimacy with working-class struggle and race-based discrimination--imparted contrasting standpoints that informed their respective artistic interventions translating the cultural power of Black suffering into the (differently historically colonized) context of Mexico. Ultimately, I argue that both composers effected an artful indirection: a displaced deictic center from which to mediate their social thought around Mexico's own problems of penal excess and extra-judicial lynching. Griselda Pollock's application of Bracha Ettinger's aesthetically activated "Matrixial" dimension sets a theoretical and analytical stage for my exploration of these anti-lynching songs and offers a way of understanding aesthetic expressions of allyship in a transhistorical mode.

Indigenous Representation and Central American Independence in Luis A. Delgadillo’s _Sinfonía indígena o centroamericana_
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

On September 15, 1921, Central America marked a century of independence from the Spanish Empire. The five nation-states of the isthmus--Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica--celebrated the milestone with festive patriotic events in each of their capital cities. That same year the region approached another historic moment by nearly reunifying as a federation, but the United States stood in the way of the collective effort. In Guatemala City, Nicaraguan pianist and composer Luis A. Delgadillo (1884–1961) conducted the premiere of his Indianist work _Sinfonía indígena o centroamericana_ (Indigenous or Central American Symphony) as a guest of honor at the centennial celebrations. Based on the _Baile de la conquista_ (Dance of the Spanish Conquest) particular to Central America, whose traditional narrative recounts the fall of the Maya K'iche' warrior Tecún Umán, the symphony appears to have been the only acknowledgment of the Indigenous-present, or living Indigenous legacy, at the celebrations. However, the work more closely resembled the official centennial speech, which advanced nationalist ideas of _mestizaje_ (race mixture), modernity, and progress in its appropriation of an Indigenous-past, informed by settler colonial and post-colonial histories. Drawing on research conducted in Nicaragua, and including ethnohistorical sources, I will argue that the _Sinfonía indígena o centroamericana_ reflected modern Central America as a region that had yet to meaningfully address its persistent colonial structures. My analysis of the tonal and formal construction of the symphony reveals how Delgadillo employed sonata-allegro form in relating the _Baile de la conquista_, which opens a programmatic four-movement cycle, as it unfolds signifiers of Central American modernity. Furthermore, I situate the social, political, and cultural implications of the work within a framework of U.S. foreign policy toward the Caribbean Basin, particularly the U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. From the late nineteenth century onward, Central American composers constructed exoticist works that engaged nation-building discourses, constituting part of a broader practice of Latin American musical nationalism. My examination seeks to contribute a Central American case study to a lacuna in the literature that has otherwise focused primarily on Mexico and South America.

Bernard Gordillo
Yale Institute Of Sacred Music
Negotiating Identities: Carlos Chávez and the Trouble with Musical “Nationalism”
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

In 1940, composer Carlos Chávez organized concerts for New York's Museum of Modern Art with the title "Twenty Centuries of Mexican Music." These concerts, paired with the MoMA exhibit "Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art," made for a paradigmatically nationalistic event: art and music from Mexico's present and past, celebrated in the cultural capital of the United States, with enthusiastic support from the Mexican government and major media coverage. As this paper illustrates, however, the frame of nationalism obscures a great deal. The assumed connection between composer and place neglects the economic and political contexts that informed the exhibition. When New York Times critic Olin Downes described Chávez's program as "a singular reflection of primitive nature," Downes expressed what a bourgeois audience wanted to hear: that Mexicans are by nature playful and exotic. In fact, the concert was carefully constructed to achieve this effect, commissioned through international circuits of art philanthropy and written to MoMA president Nelson Rockefeller's specifications.

The nationalistic frame dominating analysis of Chávez and his Latin American contemporaries focuses on vernacular and supposedly Amerindian musical features while ignoring finer-grained details and minimizing consideration of economic and political pressures at work in compositional decisions. It is possible to read Chávez as a musical nationalist, but we might also read him as presenting a stereotypical vision of Mexico for US-Americans-a musical tourist experience that simultaneously undermined Chávez's own modernist compositional aesthetics and characterized him and all Mexicans as simple and sentimental. Advertising by Macy's department store, a MoMA partner, reinforces the claim that the production was created to suit exoticist and primitivist tastes for "earlier artistic influence from the country south of the Rio Grande."

Chávez's MoMA concerts highlight the limits of the nationalist frame and demonstrate the need for alternative analytical approaches, particularly ones that attend to material considerations. I advocate for a method that centers contextual grounding and, in so doing, contradicts the interpretations available within the nationalistic frame. Further, I argue that this frame is not only imprecise and insufficient, but also counterproductive if music scholars wish to address urgent issues of inclusion and tokenistic diversity. 

Chelsea Burns
University Of Texas At Austin
Postmodern Water Music: Leo Brouwer’s _Canción de Gesta_
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

Leo Brouwer's ­_Canción de Gesta_ should never have achieved the international success that it did. And yet, since its 1981 premiere by the American Wind Symphony (AWS), the Cuban composer's piece has earned an enduring place in the US wind ensemble canon. Once the enfant terrible of Cuban composers, Brouwer's style evolved from an extremely experimental style in the 1960s to a more accessible one exemplified by _Canción de Gesta_. Yet, the work's paradoxical acceptance and longevity in the repertoire goes beyond aesthetic predilections: the subtitle of the piece, _Epopeya del Granma, la nave llena de Futuro_ (Epic poem of _Granma_, the ship loaded with Future), praises Fidel Castro's legendary ship and voyage that brought the revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1958. How did a piece that extolls the rise of a communist leader achieve such success in Cold War America?

I argue that the overwhelmingly positive reception of _Canción de Gesta_ stemmed from an aesthetic change in Brouwer's compositional voice and a short-lived shift in the political winds of Cold War Cuba-US relations. Brouwer's new approach merged techniques idiosyncratic of his earlier style (quotation) with newer ones that dialogued with post-minimalist aesthetics as well as structural devices that lent the work a more cohesive and perceptible form. The explicit and implicit allusions to water through its compositional techniques, dedication, and premiering ensemble (the AWS famously performs on the ship _Point Counterpoint II_) and accessible language facilitated its positive reception and allowed the work to be interpreted by US audiences in multiple ways that downplayed the overtly Cuban revolutionary program. Furthermore, the collaboration between Brouwer and AWS conductor Robert Boudreau took place after Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro reached an agreement in 1977 to resume diplomatic relations between the two countries, an unprecedented opening since the 1959 Revolution. My analysis of _Canción de Gesta­_ as illustrative of Cuban postmodernist practices is augmented by Brouwer's writings and sheds new light on what constitutes postmodernism beyond Euro-US-centric conceptualizations. 

Marysol Quevedo
Yale Institute of Sacred Music
University of Texas at Austin
The Juilliard School
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