LISTENING IN DETAIL: Performances of Cuban Music

By Garcia, David F. | American Studies, October 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

LISTENING IN DETAIL: Performances of Cuban Music


Garcia, David F., American Studies


LISTENING IN DETAIL: Performances of Cuban Music. By Alexandra T. Vazquez. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2013.

Alexandra Vazquez delivers a provocative book on Cuban music performance in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; fresh, because she proposes a nuanced interpretative approach to Cuban music via its often overlooked fine performative details, and provocative because Vazquez's treatment of the details she hears, sees, and feels destabilizes the discourses commonly rehearsed in talking about Cuban music. Vazquez chooses as her cases studies canonic (Olga Guillot, Dámaso Pérez Prado, Los Van Van) and not so canonic (Alfredo Rodríguez, Graciela Pérez) Cuban musicians, in addition to filmmakers (Rogelio París, Sara Gómez), whose careers span decades and across national borders and ethnic, racialized, and gendered boundaries. Her analytical work is sometimes personally revealing, and other times it challenges what we thought we have always heard. There are no musical examples or harmonic and rhythmic analyses, but rather thick descriptions (the author actually does not use Geertz) of one's own listening experiences. In the course of reflecting on the social, political, and historical significances of the details, Vazquez builds strong cases for needed interventions in the disciplines of Jazz Studies, Cuban American Studies, Latin@ Studies, and Cold War Studies by virtue of their ongoing refusal to listen across boundaries of genre, nationality, political history, and so on. Perhaps the author's most compelling intervention is through her proposal to listen with other cold war kids (cf. Gustavo Pérez Firmat's one-and-a-half generation); that is, those whose parents, like Vazquez's, fled Cuba, Korea, and Vietnam and whose attention to certain details of their parents' nostalgia, pain, and anger reveal shared experiences across difference. …

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