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“Just thinking”—Itamar, a publication from Valencia, thrives on its in-betweenness

“Just thinking”Itamar, a publication from Valencia, thrives on its in-betweenness

For those who still don’t know it, Itamar:  Revista de Investigación Musical / Territorios para el Arte is a publication based at the Universitat de València.  Under its coeditors, Jesús Alcolea Banegas, Rosa Iniesta Masmano, and Rosa Mª Rodríguez Hernández, the publication honors its title and subtitles because it provides a space—a freethinking “palm tree island”—for broadminded thought, a territory where no discipline or methodology dominates; a place that fosters “la pensée complexe,” as one of its honorary founders, the eminent Edgar Morin, could have said.  To be sure, Itamar celebrates its “in-betweenness,” as Homi K. Bhabha critical theorist would say, a space between spaces in an imaginary landscape of academic work.  You may see it for yourselves in the table of contents of the current issue.

Itamar’s latest issue has just come out and, among many other articles, Antoni Pizà publishes a think piece on the possible consolation of music and the arts.  Why do some people tend to rely on the arts to find balance in their emotional lives?  Pizà has published several other essays in Itamar.  In 2009 he wrote about fragments and unfinished artworks and specifically Schubert’s Reliquie, Piano Sonata in C major,  D. 840.  He also published in 2010 an essay on Chopin’s sexual life, a widely downloaded essay, if only for its title.

We are all grateful that Itamar exists and provides a needed editorial space for open-minded scholarship and writerly creativity. We’re all Robinson Crusoe now, sitting on an imaginary Itamar, a deserted palm-tree island, scratching our heads and thinking—just thinking.

Baltasar Samper and Early Jazz in Barcelona

In the early 2000’s, pianist and scholar Joan Moll gave Antoni Pizà a clump of yellowish loose old quartos in a modest supermarket plastic bag containing some autograph manuscripts by composer and scholar Baltasar Samper (Palma de Mallorca 1888 – Mexico, DF 1966).  The collection included three lectures on jazz presented in Barcelona in 1935.  There was also the text of a pre-concert lecture from the 1920’s on Ravel, some notes in French pertaining to his ethnographic fieldwork, and some handwritten copies of Shakespeare sonnets translated into Catalan by Magí Morera i Galícia in 1912.  Moll, a Samper pioneer performer and scholar, hoped Pizà would edit and publish these materials.  Quite a few years passed and in 2019 Pizà and musicologist Francesc Vicens finally prepared these papers for publication.

Modeling his talks on the ideas of French critic Hugues Panassié, in his lectures, Samper discusses the jazz canon up to 1935.  His track selection might or might not surprise you.  Armstrong, of course, has a prominent role, but Valaida Snow is without a doubt undeservedly underappreciated nowadays and she might surprise some present-day jazz aficionados.  You might want to check out the book’s soundtrack on this YouTube playlist and judge for yourself.

This volume, published by Lleonard Muntaner, has received an enormous amount of attention and it has been reviewed in many publications both in print and online and both for the general reader as well as for a scholarly readership on both sides of the Atlantic. The reviews include:  Serra d’Or, FelanitxLa LectoraCent per cent, Sonograma, Doce Notas, Diagonal, Codalario, Ultima Hora, Bellver / Diario de Mallorca, and a couple of radio programs in Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca.

With beautiful cover art by famous photographer, guitarist, and true early-jazz insider Charles Peterson, and permission kindly granted by his son, eminent jazz critic and writer Don Peterson, the latest addition to this list of reviews is by Benjamin R. Fraser,  Professor of Iberian and Latin American Cultural Studies at the University of Arizona, a Tete Montoliu’s scholar, and author of many books on Iberian culture.  He writes in Catalan Review that “the consequences of this book extend beyond a purely biographical interest” and that the introduction is “a dense essay of clear transnational and transatlantic applicability.”

Although Samper lived the peripatetic, difficult existence of many exiles, finally settling in Mexico, where he died, his artistic reputation and intellectual standing seems to grow nonstop from the foundational, pioneer studies by Josep Massot i Muntaner, the early recordings of Joan Moll, to this pertinent contribution on jazz, as well as the initiatives and studies by younger scholars such as Amadeu Corbera.  We’re grateful Samper is getting all this attention.  He deserves it.

 

Brook Center’s 18th-Century Symphony Archive is now freely available online

The 18th-Century Symphony Archive is a collection of microfilms and photocopies of over 3000 original sources (scores and parts) documenting the history of the genre through its formative years. It is likely the largest archive of 18th-century symphonies in the United States. The print collection resides at the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. Ruth Halle Rowen’s Symphonic and Chamber Music Score and Parts Bank Thematic Catalogue of the Barry S. Brook Facsimile Archive (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1996) has served as a print catalogue to the collection.

The complete catalogue is now available online. Further, more than half of the scores (those without copyright restrictions) have been digitized and made available online via links from the catalogue. The catalogue is organized by composers’ last names. Collections of works by several composers are listed at the beginning of the catalogue alphabetically by the first composer’s last name.  Instrumentation is included using standard abbreviations. Publishers, libraries, and additional information appear as found on the materials. Scholars, students, musicians, publishers, and others now have immediate access to many hundreds of early symphonic works.

The project has been led by Michele Smith, who compiled the catalogue with the help of Murray Citron, and who oversaw the digitizing, uploading, and linking of the scores.

Reading Iberian Music through the Lens of #BlackLivesMatter

By Meira Goldberg & Antoni Pizà

Recent events in the USA, including the deaths of Elijah McClain, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and a devastating number of others, sparking waves of peaceful protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and many initiatives to remove monuments celebrating the controversial (to say the least) leaders of the Confederacy prompt us to reconsider how these looming issues affect our own work in music and dance studies.

The Foundation for Iberian Music aspires to be a place for reflection on the past and present of the music and dance of the Iberian world, and on the Latin American, Caribbean, Native, and African cultures that have contributed to these art forms.  In a previous post we reflected on how not only the fundamental structures of racism which evolved in Spain and Portugal, but also the cultures of enslaved African people and their descendants were retained across many centuries, and how music and dance materialize the processes of transmission and syncretization of these performance cultures.

In recent months, even before the rising movement to push icons of the Confederacy off their pedestals, some of the most emblematic performances of Spanish identity have been interrogated in terms of their racist content and colonial past.  For instance, Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt recently published an essay in the New York Review of Books calling for a reconsideration of the Misteri d’Elx (Misterio de Elche).  Considered to be the oldest mystery play in the world and recognized by UNESCO as “a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity,” it has been uninterruptedly performed for six hundred years (due to COVID19 this summer it will not be presented).  This ritual performance celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary each August 14 and 15 and the conversion of Jews to Christianity in the presence of this event. According to Greenblatt, the “Judiada” (the Jewish episode in the play) is a vicious recapitulation of demeaning Jewish stereotypes.

Another respected American scholar, David Nirenberg, author of a well-documented monograph Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013), in an online essay, has argued that Facebook, if it is to be consistent with its own policies on hate speech, should probably ban the Misteri page. Antoni Pizà’s essay in L’Avenç, covering some of the same issues, calls for the need for audience education and contextualization.  The essay has been widely reprinted and abridged.

The celebrated Cantigas de Santa María, about four hundred songs praising the Virgin Mary, which are a staple of Iberian medieval music, poetry, and visual art, contain at least one excerpt referencing a well-known and often-repeated storyline:  a Jew attempting to desecrate a Holy Host (though never achieving his evil intentions).  Similarly, the romancero and the cancionero, repositories of lyrics and songs that have come to form Iberian identity, reflect the Iberian side of Christian anti-Judaism.  Some Holy Week street parades still torment an effigy or ragdoll (monigote), which in one instance is called “Peropalo,” representing Judas as standing in for all Jews.  Also, during the famed procesiones de Semana Santa, in many towns the executioners (sayones) who escort Jesus along the Via Crucis to his death are represented as repugnant Jewish figures.  In Catalonia, until the 1950s on Holy Friday children in villages celebrated “to go to kill Jews,” a noise-making performance using a contraption called carraus (or in Spanish carrasquetas).

Christian proselytism has had many ramifications, of course.  As the figure of Christopher Columbus is debated, so are those of Junípero Serra, composer, arranger, and compiler of many religious works, who perfectly understood the uses of music in the Spanish colonial enterprise.  Another, lesser known, Franciscan friar, J. B. Sancho, a very competent composer who introduced “modern” European compositional resources to North America, including that of basso continuo, was also an accidental part in this colonial enterprise.  Needless to say, to debate and contextualize their musical legacy is not to deny it or suppress it.

Offensive music and dance performances are not limited to anti-Semitic instances or colonial musical utterances. Spanish Roma (Gitanos, or so-called “Gypsies”), and Afro-descended Spaniards and Latin Americans have long been demeaned and dehumanized in music, dance, folk poetry, painting, and other forms of representation. In fact, as K. Meira Goldberg has argued in her book Sonidos Negros: On the Blackness of Flamenco, Spain’s transposition of “raza,” religious difference, onto the surface of the skin as “race” constructs far more of our culture than we realize—from turnout in ballet to the sign, branded on people’s faces, for slave, or esclavo, as an “S” and a clavo (nail) in this matter: $.

historical engraving depicting the Spanish slave brand

Bóveda de San Ginés, Calle de los Bordadores, Madrid

 

Ironically, Spanish representations of Blackness, encompassing Jews and Muslims, Africans and Gitanos—and denoting what Dr. kihana miraya ross in her recent opinion piece in the New York Times, “Call It What It Is: Anti-Blackness,” calls “slaveness”became emblems of identity for the Spanish nation as a whole. From Cervantes’s La Gitanilla (1613) to Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen (1875), to Carmen Amaya’s Original Gypsy Dances (1941) and all the way into the Grammy award-winning album El Mal Querer (2018) by Rosalía Vila Tobella, “Rosalía,” the imagined Gitano (or, more precisely, the imagined Gitana) has been commoditized. Spain’s post-Franco reemergence into Europe and into the neoliberal world order has entailed a metamorphosis of its long-fraught relationship with this unruly image. Yet even on Rosalía’s 2018 album, Spain figures its unadulterated national essence—its Whiteness—in the person of a racially confounded and socially marginal disruptor. Rosalía broke into the global commercial market with her song “Malamente,” in which she postures as an Andalusian Gitana from the projects (poligonera). Indeed, some on both sides of the Atlantic find Rosalía’s synthesis of flamenco and black American hip hop forms like trap jarring. Thus, Spanish Gitana activist Noelia Cortés writes that Rosalía puts on elements of Gitano culture “that have historically been used as resistance” as if they were “false eyelashes.”

Alleged offensive language in music and dance continues to be a battlefield for issues of freedom of speech—and its limits.  In recent times a Catalan-speaking rap artist Valtònyc (Josep Miquel Beltrán) had to leave Spain and lives now in exile in Belgium, because his lyrics were critical of the Spanish monarchy and allegedly incited terrorism, as Antoni Pizà argues in another September 2020 essay in L’Avenç.  All European courts and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have sided with the artist, but in the Spanish democratic system, apparently, freedom of expression does not extend to language deemed offensive by the monarchy. Pablo Hasél, a recording artist accused of the same alleged crimes, has also been condemned for similar offences.  As a matter of fact, since 2015 the Spanish courts have taken issue with more than twenty recording artists and many others in the arts, including the actor Willy Toledo, the visual artist Santiago Sierra, the novel Fariña, and the puppet play Jerk, among many others. 

The Foundation’s mission is neither to promote censorship—nor is it to advocate absolute freedom of speech.  Our goal is not to take sides, but to create channels for debate and to create scholarly environments where all these issues can be discussed and historically contextualized.

 

 

 

 

Canceled: “Flamenco in the USA” (27 March) and Kiko Mora Talk (26 March)

As per the latest update to the Graduate Center’s COVID-19 response policy (10 March), events through March 29 with more than 20 people in attendance are not permitted.

The university is doing their best to enable live streaming for affected events, but unfortunately, many of our scheduled speakers are abroad or outside of NYC and will not be able to travel. As such, it is with great regret that we must cancel our events on 26 March, “Spanish Music in the US Recording Industry” with Kiko Mora, and 27 March, our “Flamenco in the USA” conference, as well as the film screenings scheduled for the evening of 27 March.

We are investigating publication options for the scheduled conference papers, in the hopes that we can still bring the excellent work of the speakers to the public. You can read the final program here.

Mora has already published the research upon which his talk was based, and we hope you will enjoy reading his book, De cera y goma-laca: La producción de música española en la industria fonográfica estadounidense “1896-1914”. It’s available for purchase here.

Pizà article on Guillem d’Efak in this month’s L’Avenç

Foundation for Iberian Music director Antoni Pizà published an article on Mallorcan singer-songwriter Guillem d’Efak in the March 2020 issue of L’Avenç. It was also selected as a cover feature by Ara, where you can read it online without a subscription. D’Efak (1930–1995) was born in Spanish Guinea but raised in Mallorca, where he became a well-known actor, songwriter, and poet. He was a leader of the Nova Cançó movement, Catalonia’s progressive folk scene of the early sixties.

New York Andalus Ensemble Video and Hunter College Presentation

New York Andalus Ensemble logoNew York Andalus Ensemble, one of the Foundation for Iberian Music’s ensembles in residence, has a free public performance and lecture, “Arab Inter-culturality in al-Andalus,” upcoming at NYC’s Hunter College on April 1st. Read more in their latest news letter; for time and venue information, please get in touch with info@asefamusic.com

They also recently completed a successful west coast tour. You can watch some of their sold-out concert at Kuumba’s Santa Cruz on their YouTube channel below. 

Stay tuned for their annual spring concert with the large ensemble, to be scheduled in May, and help keep NYAE’s music and intercultural outreach going with a tax-deductible donation. The Foundation for Iberian Music is a non-profit educational organization supported entirely by grants and private donations.

Musica Oral del Sur to Publish “Transatlantic Rhythms” Conference Papers

A selection of papers from last year’s Natives, Africans, Roma and Europeans: Transatlantic Rhythms in Music, Song and Dance conference in Veracruz will be published in a special issue of journal Música oral del Sur

Música oral del Sur is published once a year. This year’s issue, No. 17, will be published in the summer. Música oral del Sur previously published papers from the initial conference of this series, The Global Reach of the Fandango, in issue No. 12, 2015.