A Latin American Music Reader: Views from the South

By Metz, Kathryn | Notes, December 2017 | Go to article overview

A Latin American Music Reader: Views from the South


Metz, Kathryn, Notes


A Latin American Music Reader: Views from the South. Edited by Javier F. Leon and Helena Simonett. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2016. [xi, 449 p. ISBN 9780252040214 (cloth), $95; ISBN 9780252081675 (paperback), $35; ISBN 9780252098437 (e-book), $30.] Biographies of contributors and translators, index.

I have never been able to understand Latin American ethnomusicology as a discipline with fixed boundaries. Studying under the late Gerard Behague, a scholar with vast knowledge of multiple ethnomusicologies, expanded my views in ways that were both overwhelming and inspiring. In their collection A Latin American Music Reader: Views from the South, Javier Leon--a fellow student of Behague's--and co-editor Helena Simonett recognize the multiplicity of approaches, styles, and canons that make up the field, and the sheer diversity of Latin American music and the studies of and approaches to it. Rather than try to encompass everything in detail, the editors identify general themes in the development of modern nationhood in Latin America that inform the performance, collection, research, distribution, and reception of music. The essays that appear in this volume were written within the last twenty-five years and demonstrate the constant evolution of this broad and rich discipline.

The book comprises an exhaustive introduction--which stands alone as a superb resource--and three parts. In the introduction, Simonett and the late Michael Marcuzzi--to whom this volume is dedicated--provide a dramatis persona* of sorts, describing the central musicologists, folklorists, composers, anthropologists, and activists who shaped the study of Latin American music over the last one hundred years. They strategically chose their starting point at the turn of the century, when young Latin American nations and would be nations struggled with the very concept of nationhood in the wake of and in anticipation of conflicts. The authors succinctly couch the work of these scholars in historical terms, summarizing political and cultural movements that influenced the development of ethnomusicology and related studies in Latin America. Simonett and Marcuzzi work chronologically and geographically, carefully describing scholarly trends as they emerged in distinctly different circumstances throughout the region.

For each of the three major sections of the book, Javier Leon provides summaries that reveal the editors' process of curation. The essay writers come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and areas of expertise, including historiography, organology, ethnography, and criticism, among others. The editors note that scholars of Latin American studies in Canada and Europe have also contributed to the field. The result is a volume that exposes an awareness of circulation, scholarly discourse, and important trends that thread its contents together with precision.

The first section, "Academic Lineages, Disciplinary Canons, and Historiographies," revolving around the canons of Latin American musicology, seamlessly transitions from Simonett and Marcuzzi's introduction. This section includes sweeping essays on research on music in South America and the challenge of studying popular (commercial) music in that region. The editors include essays that draw from diverse examples, including the studies of traditional and vernacular music, the cultural construction of history through a very precise organology, and historical perspectives on nationalism in nineteenth-century music. The editors purposefully included Carolina Santamarfa-Delgado's meticulous and thoughtful analysis of coloniality in Latin American musical studies. She explores the inequities that are frequently intrinsic in ethno/musicological research, providing a critical frame to consider the production of knowledge from within and from without the region. The rhythm, as it were, of these essays moves smoothly, transitioning evenly both chronologically and thematically. …

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