Atlantic Crossings: Review and Conference Abstracts
Review by Alejandro Vera in Eighteenth-Century Music (Cambridge University Press, 2020).
ATLANTIC CROSSINGS: MUSIC FROM 1492 THROUGH THE LONG 18th CENTURY: CENTER FOR EARLY MUSIC STUDIES, BOSTON UNIVERSITY, 7-8 June, 2019
About twenty researchers gathered for this international conference organized by the Center for Early Music Studies of Boston University. According to the call for papers, this event sought ‘to engage with music’s relationship to the critical issues of politics, race, class, gender, and sexuality as they relate to music’ in the context of the so-called ‘discovery’ of the New World, addressing aspects such as colonialism, subalternity, slavery and the African diaspora. The conference as programmed, however, covered an even greater variety of topics.
Four papers drew on rich and hitherto unexamined resources. Javier Marín (Universidad de Jaén) studied the inventory of goods of José Laso Valero, chapelmaster in the Cathedral of Puebla, who died in 1778. Listing around 350 works that include Spanish vocal music, Italian pieces and, to a lesser extent, instrumental music, this source demonstrates the intricate musical connections of this Mexican city to the Old World towards the end of the eighteenth century. Taking a similar approach, Egberto Bermúdez (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) focused on archival documents to show how the town of El Socorro, in present-day Colombia, was the scene of a rich musical life around 1800. The repertory cultivated there derived from oral and written traditions alike and included some symphonies by Johann Anton Filtz (or Fils, 1730-60) sent from Spain in 1798.
Instrumental music was also addressed in my paper (Alejandro Vera, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), for which I examined the shipping records preserved in the Real Aduana collection from the Archivo General de la Nación del Perú to demonstrate that this city regularly received symphonies and other instru- mental pieces by later eighteenth-century composers. At the same time, however, much older works arrived, such as Gaspar Sanz’s Instrucción de música (of which seven editions were published from 1697, revealing a confluence between modernity and tradition that seems to have been typical of colonial Latin America. César Favila (University of California Los Angeles), for his part, offered a fresh overview of musical life in the convents of New Spain, showing that nuns performed several of the repertories studied at this conference. In addition, he pointed out various interesting features of convent life, such as its close contact with the supernatural world, which included religious ecstasy and demonic possessions (there was even an organ that was believed to be possessed).
Another group of papers revisited, from new perspectives, sources already known within musicology. Mary Caton Lingold (Virginia Commonwealth University) addressed the figure of ‘Mr Baptiste’, ‘the best musician of the place [Jamaica]’ according to the travel book by British naturalist Hans Sloane (1660-1753), who visited Jamaica and other Caribbean islands at the end of the seventeenth century. The documentary evidence gathered by the author suggests that Baptiste was not a European, as previously believed, but ‘a black musician and composer’. Maria Ryan (University of Pennsylvania), meanwhile, combined the study of archival documents and iconography of music scenes in Jamaica to approach the historical sounds that these sources reflect. From this perspective, aspects that usually go unnoticed when looking at paintings – such as the great distance between military musicians and violinists of African heritage – acquire a new meaning.
Ireri E. Chávez Bárcenas (Yale University) analysed four villancicos in Nahuatl from the Cancionero de Gaspar Fernández, copied at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Although, according to the author, the polyphonic style seems Spanish or European at first glance, Fernández attempts to create a ‘specifically indigenous affect’ and to retain some characteristics of the ritual and local practices (using, for instance, a more homophonic texture in the first verse in Nahuatl). Esperanza Rodríguez-García (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) reviewed the extant sources for the motet ‘O admirabile commercium’, composed around 1500. One of these is a manuscript found in Guatemala in the 1960s and currently preserved in Bloomington, which includes numerous errors in its copying that make it virtually unsingable. However, Rodríguez-García argued that this source could constitute a kind of memory aid, rather than sheet-music from which to read. Finally, a roundtable led by Grayson Wagstaff (The Catholic University of America), Rachel Carpentier (Boston University), Ryan Endris (Colgate University) and Javier Marín proposed new strategies for the study of polyphonic sources from Latin America. Two of these presentations exemplified the combination of a historical approach with an ethnographic one, resulting in more attention being paid to the cultural meaning of musical works (Wagstaff) or a focus on manuscript copies of printed works instead of analysing only the latter (Carpentier).
Revisionism also extended to mythical accounts of the origin of musical practices or traditions. Ben Curry (University of Birmingham) studied the apparent anomaly that occurs in ‘Koromanti’, one of the pieces attributed to the Jamaican-based musician Mr Baptiste, with the consecutive appearance of natural and sharp Gs. One of the previous hypotheses had related this apparent chromaticism to a blues scale, but Curry convincingly proposed that barlines should be removed from modern transcriptions, since they were probably added (by the printer) to adapt the piece to European conventions. When we do so, all these notes become G#s, the musical phrases fit better with the text, and the hypothesis about the possible links with blues appears to be baseless. By the same token, Nicholas Gebhardt (Birmingham City University) showed that the supposed links between jazz and dances practised by Africans in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century rested on weak foundations. Instead, he proposed we should think about jazz without establishing a direct line with African music, nor with any other single point of origin. Michael Birenbaum Quintero (Boston University) undertook a similar critical exercise concerning the bambuco, a ‘national’ genre in Colombia. Previous hypotheses that attributed its origin to Africa or Europe assumed that its current performance should reflect an identifiable starting-point. Birenbaum instead suggested that this music is a local adaptation of Spanish forms, which nevertheless had enough impact among people of African heritage to be incorporated into their culture.
Francesco Milella (University of Cambridge) focused on the composer Stefano Cristiani, who was active in Mexico in the 1820s. Combining the analysis of his manuscripts and the Mexican press of the time, Milella showed that the introduction of Italian opera did not take place abruptly, but was preceded by several years in which opera coexisted with the Spanish zarzuela. Benjamin Walton (University of Cambridge) also chose the introduction of the opera as a topic, but in Rio de Janeiro. According to him, the genre was far from being a mere bearer of European culture, as frequently stated, because traditional spaces for the development of the forms of sociability characteristic of Europe were scarce in the city and because opera had to coexist with a broader universe of ‘sonic cultures’, including music by musicians with African heritage. However, if the Atlantic crossing usually appears as a unidirectional one, from the Old to the New World, David Irving (ICREA & Institució Milà i Fontanals–CSIC) analysed the natural materials used in the making of instruments to show how American woods modified the European lutherie of the time substantially. In this way, he reminded us that the cultural impacts of transatlantic exchange resounded in Europe in ways that were fundamental for the development of orchestral instruments. Notwithstanding these revisionist approaches, Sarah Eyerly (Florida State University), in her study on musical and ritual practices by Moravians in Nain, Labrador, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, showed convincingly that some musical traditions could endure for a long time, even in some aspects that musicology used to consider prone to change.
Another topic addressed by more than one author was how music not only reflects the society and culture that surround it but also contributes to its shaping. Julia Hamilton (Columbia University) studied the role of abolitionist songs in Britain in the late eighteenth century. The numerous musical versions preserved for some texts suggest that poets were fully aware that music could increase the circulation and acceptance of their ideas about slavery. Guillermo Salas Suárez (Case Western University), for his part, showed that the violin constituted an effective means of social climbing in eighteenth-century Mexico and that this instru- ment was practised by people with diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Finally, the paper by Devon J. Borowski (The University of Chicago) showed that the sung voice contributed to outlining the notions of masculinity that were supposedly proper to the British Empire. However, vocal performance could sometimes be considered to detract from accepted standards of imperial ideology, as happened with a cantata performed in 1781, for William Beckford’s birthday, in which the ‘decadent voices’ of the castratos produced a conflicting image of masculinity.
The conference also gave space to the study of music performance. Apart from the papers by Lingold and Curry mentioned above, which partly dealt with performing issues, Zak Ozmo (L’Avventura, London) and Ryan Endris addressed this field in depth. The former studied the Portuguese modinhas of the eighteenth century, a genre with Afro-Brazilian influence, which is frequently performed today in ways that seek to emphasize its supposed African origin. Ozmo, however, reminded us that the promotion of genres of this type as genuinely African was a strategy employed by black minstrels themselves to ensure their success, and that Europeans built their music by incorporating and parodying foreign languages. Endris, on the other hand, examined works by Antonio Juanas (c1762-c1816), a chapel master of Mexico Cathedral. Like other composers active in colonial Latin America, Juanas wrote music for several choirs in the concertato-ripieno format (if not strictly polychoral), something that Endris decided to reflect through piano and forte indications in his recently published edition.
The conference concluded with a paper by Brian Barone (Boston University) on music, dance and torture in the ‘Middle Passage’, that is, the part of the Atlantic through which millions of Africans were forced to pass as slaves to the New World. Based on different sources, the author showed that music was used as a means of coercion and even torture against these people. For example, a book printed in France in 1675 (Le parfait negotiant) recommended that slave traders bring some instruments so that the slaves could dance, since in that way they were kept in good health and sold at a better price upon arrival. However, those who refused to dance were tortured or, in the case of women, raped. The author concluded by asking what we could do, as musicologists, to avoid ignoring this historical reality, and also to explore its current implications.
Of course, the other side of the coin (and Barone was undoubtedly aware of this) is that a musicological narrative pointing exclusively to the damnable violence that people of African heritage experienced during European colonization can lead us to forget that, despite this, musical practices also constituted for many of them a source of pleasure and a creative experience – and were generated and invented by them for this pur- pose, as Maria Ryan explained in her paper. In this troubling duality, as in others, lies a fundamental problem for the study of African and African-derived practices in the Americas; this may perhaps be considered one of the lessons offered by this conference.
Another important lesson lies in the need to increase crossings between our own research fields. As Birembaum stated at the end of his presentation: although historical musicology, until recent decades, often avoided the study of musical culture in its broadest sense, ethnomusicology on the other hand tended to establish close associations between musical practices and individual cultures while paying scarce attention to their historical dimensions. While both statements could be considered unfair by many musicologists and ethnomusicologists of the past, I believe that Birembaum’s observation points to the need to cross the boundaries of our comfort zone – to recover, in other words, the ability to accept the other and be enchanted by difference.
The hospitality that Victor Coelho (chair) and the organizing committee (Joshua Rifkin and Brian Barone) lavished on attendees, especially those who came from farther away, deserves special mention. Their warm welcome, the infrastructure provided by the university and the surroundings of a beautiful city like Boston made this conference a pleasant experience for everyone.
Brian Barone (Boston University): “Music, Dance, and Torture in the Middle Passage”
Across the period of the Atlantic Slave Trade and on ships sailing under the flags of every European maritime nation, slaving captains and crews oversaw a musicalized form of torture known as “dancing the slaves.” Framed by authors of guidebooks to slaving and by ship’s surgeons as a method for ensuring the physical and mental health of captives, the practice was in fact a brutal form of coercion and a technique for will- breaking. On many ships, a crewman was specifically hired out of a European port city for his musical ability—usually a fiddler or musette player; in other cases, captains are known to have purchased African instruments along with human cargo before setting off across the Atlantic. In every case, music formed the backdrop for the daily enforcement of dancing-as-exercise. For male captives, who were not let out of their fetters during the dance, chains and cuffs could cause painful and dangerous lacerations. For those who refused to dance, or who participated unenthusiastically, the punishment was usually whipping until they complied. At the same time, however, some historians have suggested that such moments of musicking and dancing afforded opportunities for subversive plotting: call-and-response songs raised in African languages unintelligible to European crews may have been a means of planning insurrections and escapes.
This paper places the phenomenon of “dancing the slaves” alongside recent musicological conversations about music and violence. In particular, it engages with work by Suzanne Cusick, William Cheng, and others on music as torture and weaponry in the twenty-first century to argue that such uses of music are not new, but rather reach back into the early modern period as well. Against musicology’s tendency to celebrate music and musicians, this paper offers the biographies of slave-ship musicians as cautionary tales, asking how we might have to think differently if music history is populated not only by heroic composers and virtuosi, but also by villainous kidnapers and torturers. And it finally memorializes the millions of Africans who endured a Middle Passage characterized by forced song and dance while nonetheless preserving the musical traditions of their homelands in ways that would create the dominant musics of the Americas—and eventually the world.
Round Table on “Atlantic Sources of Polyphony”Grayson Wagstaff (Catholic University), Chair;
Rachel Carpentier (Boston University), Ryan Endris (Colgate University), Javier Marín- López (Universidad de Jaén), panelists
This round table will explore in both wide angled and narrowly focused ways how and what New World/New Spain sources can reveal about the themes of the conference. That is, how to view source studies in a more historical, cultural, and political context, and speculate on their meaning. It is hoped that the discussion moves towards the idea of a “global” music history in which these sources can play an important role.
“From Colonies to Republics: Latin American Music in Transition, 1770-1825” a Round Table organized in conjunction with the IMS Study Group “Early Music and the Americas,” Egberto Bermudez (Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá), Chair
- Javier Marín-López (Universidad de Jaén): “Enlightenment, Cosmopolitanism, and the Music Trade in the Atlantic Word: The Emporium of Fernández de Jáuregui in Mexico City (1801)”
- Alejandro Vera (Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago): “Instrumental Music in the Vice Royalty of Peru in the Late Eighteenth Century: Circulation and Possible Contexts for Reception.”
- Egberto Bermudez (Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá): “Music and Society in El Socorro (Northeastern Colombia), 1750-1825”
This session aims at presenting the situation of music in different areas of Latin America, in the period of transition between the implementation of Spanish Bourbonic reforms and the total independence of most of the continent achieved between 1818-25. It also looks at foreign influences and local developments in the field of music striving for a wider context incorporating references from Brazil, North America (United States and Canada) and the English, French, Dutch and Danish possession in the Caribbean. The circulation of printed music and musical instruments, the economy if the music business, the presence of amateurs and issues of music iconography in the context of ideas about Independence are highlighted in the presentations.
Michael Birenbaum Quintero (Boston University): “Affiliation as Methodology: A Re-Revisionist Hypothesis for Colombian Bambuco and the 6/8 Matrix”
The 6/8 string band genre bambuco, associated with the Colombian Andes, has been posited as the national music, in part due to ambiguously white-mestizo racial associations suggestive of the country’s unmarked racial category. Bambuco’s “African roots,” whispered about since the nineteenth century, have again been highlighted with the recent appearance in the Colombian mainstream of the Pacific coast Afro-Colombian marimba genre called “bambuco viejo.” Revisionist authors have postulated a unidirectional outgrowth of the black Pacific marimba dance to the Andean highlands, breaking with nationalist dismissals of bambuco’s blackness, but also reproducing tropes of racial origin familiar from the mestizaje narrative.
Rather than using family resemblances to imagine musical ancestry—a speculative genealogy in the non-Foucauldian sense—I suggest tracing early-Pacific bambuco by examining its material and social conditions of possibility—a historical sociology of musical affiliation— in eighteenth-century Pacific slave society. I argue that musical styles emerged from people’s search for intelligible forms of musical sociality. The focus on multiple, overlapping affiliations, including religion, linguistic communities, networks of exchange, and institutions of slavery, allows for a middle path between the anachronistic imposition of black cultural nationalism (culture devoid of history), and the cautious anti-essentialist refusal to recognize the particularity of certain ways of knowing (history devoid of culture).
This approach allows me to suggest, somewhat counter-intuitively, that black Pacific marimba music is a local adaptation of socially Spanish 6/8 dance forms for marimba and drums. The musical characteristics of this repertoire, already impacted by black Iberian and Ibero-American musicians, facilitated its appropriation into the musical logic of Africans and their descendants in the southern Pacific. Bambuco viejo, then, emerged parallel with other 6/8 genres in the region, adopted as part of a bid for social mobility, but with an instrumentation that constituted a kind of musical re-Africanization.
Devon J Borowski (The University of Chicago): “A Sweet Song for Chaste Ears: British Masculinity and the Castrato’s Voice in the Global Eighteenth Century”
For eighteenth-century Britons, the singing voice was a source of erotic fixation and moral controversy. It also served as a critical index of the body through which an increasingly cosmopolitan public could confront exigent questions of identity and difference in a burgeoning empire. This paper asks how voice delineated humanity at home and abroad throughout Britain’s expansive sphere of influence, arguing that the material practice of song served the imperial project by offering a medium for negotiating shifting modes of racialization, constructions of gender, and parameters of desire.
To that end, it considers two sonic experiences in transatlantic counterpoint, both of which frame an ideal of British masculinity through the relationship between voice and ear. The first is the twenty-first birthday (1781) of William Beckford, heir to a fortune in West Indian sugar and slaves, the festivities for which occasioned a cantata urging him to embrace the manly virtues of restraint, magnanimity, and loyalty. The cantata’s lesson, however, was obscured by the decadent voices of castrati, producing a conflicting image of English manhood. The second case is that of Beckford’s elder cousin (also William), a latter-day planter historian supervising his own plantations in Jamaica. Also a lover of music, his writings offer a conflicted relationship to the singing of his female slaves, dismissing their musicality while suggesting an erotic and racialized draw toward their voices. His sonic sketches remind us that not all voices are heard the same way, and some not at all.
Beyond discourses of difference, though, these stories suggest that, in the imperial context, sounding voices can take on a power beyond the metaphor of political representation. Situating the auditory networks engendered by the Beckford family at the nexus of imperial song and colonial silence thus reveals the voice’s role in constructing not only bodies, but empires.
Ireri E. Chávez-Bárcenas (Yale University): Native Song and Dance Affect in Seventeenth-Century Christian Festivals in New Spain
Devotional songs in the vernacular were essential components in religious and civic ceremonies in the early modern Hispanic world. The villancico, in particular, became the musico-literary genre that best fulfilled the post-Tridentine imperative to raise religious awareness through the senses and were required in cathedrals and court chapels around the Spanish empire. Although most villancicos were sung in Spanish, others featured dialects that had already become conventional in Spanish literature to represent Basques, Portuguese and Blacks, and occasionally included native dialects to represent Indians.
Song and dance was central to pre-contact Nahua religious and political ceremonials and continued long after the conquest of Tenochtitlan. The potential for native usages and customs was well understood by Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries such as Pedro de Gante, Bernardino de Sahagún, or José Acosta, all of whom advocated not only for the use of Nahuatl for religious instruction, but for the performance of song and dance rituals in feast days so they could “channel their festivals and rejoicing toward the honor of God and the saints whose feasts are being celebrated” (Acosta, Historia natural y moral de las Indias, 1590). Although not many songs in Nahuatl survive, the numerous chronicles describing the performance of native songs and dances in religious and civic celebrations indicate that by the late-sixteenth century these pieces had become intrinsic elements of the Novohispanic festive apparatus, fostering a distinctly indigenized ritual tradition.
This paper focuses on the four surviving villancicos in Nahuatl from the seventeenth century. They were composed for the feast of Christmas in Puebla de los Ángeles in 1609 and 1611 by the chapel master Gaspar Fernández. I explore the musical attributes of the pieces, which evoked explicitly aspects of Nahua music, especially the drumming sound of theteponaztli and the huehuetl that accompanied song and dance rituals. In these songs Indians are represented as humble biblical shepherds in the Nativity scene. They are shown as affectionate, melancholic, and even immature neophytes deeply moved by the tears of the Christ Child. Although these portrayals are shaped by early modern ideas of racial difference, they are also rooted in the exaltation of humility and poverty as the most perfect Christian values, which was especially significant for the religious orders in charge of the evangelization of Indian natives. I argue that these scarce surviving examples of a novel genre allow us a richer understanding of the effect of hybridized sacred music in colonial contexts. The audible Nahua influences would have triggered the imagination of attentive listeners, which casts in a new light the post- Tridentine desire to harness the affective power of music and reaffirm the place of the sensuous in religious rituals.
Ben Curry (University of Birmingham): Early African American Music Sources and the ‘Origins of the Blues’
While it has long been recognized that the African American popular music of the twentieth century must in some way have roots in the Atlantic Crossing of the early modern period this area of music history remains under theorized and lacking in sustained scholarly attention. In particular, interdisciplinary questions concerning the patterning of music in response to cultural, material and ideological developments has not been addressed satisfactorily and has been subject to myth-making that, at best, simplifies and, at worst, distorts the complex historical processes that prefigure some of the most celebrated musical practices of the twentieth century.
This paper looks to bring new light to this field through reflecting on Peter van der Merwe’s claims concerning the ‘African origins of the Blues’ in his influential and still much cited book Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth Century Popular Music. Van der Merwe’s claims are musicologically compelling but lacking in historical detail and geo-cultural sensitivity in their tendency to homogenize the rich and varied cultures of the African continent. These claims will be scrutinized by cross reference, drawing on insightful work on seventeenth century sources by Richard Cullen Rath that helps us to recognize the extent to which historical detail is lacking in Van der Merwe’s account but which arguably falls short of the heuristic musicological insights that van der Merwe manages to set out.
The paper will conclude with a more direct engagement of the so-called ‘Herskovits-Frazier problem’ – a problem that concerns the extent to which it is possible to speak of African survivals in American music, given the level of cultural suppression that characterized enslavement. It will argue that through Sellarsian scientific realism we can see beyond the notion of survivals while asserting with confidence a set of complex causal processes that ultimately tie the musical practices of African Americans to the historical facts of their forebears’ lives.
R. Ryan Endris (Colgate University): “Antonio Juanas, the Most Prolific maestro de capilla in Mexico City”
Until recently, scholarship on the music of the cathedrals of Mexico from 1500-1800 has been largely ignored by both musicologists and conductors. Over the last thirty years, the choral and instrumental works of Hernando Franco (1532–1585), Juan Gutierrez de Padilla (1590–1664), Francisco Lopez Capillas (c.1615– 1673), Manuel de Sumaya (1678–1755), and Ignacio Jerusalem y Stella (1707–1769) have been the primary focus of the few musicologists and performers exploring this relatively uncharted area of study. My own intensive research and study of the Mexico City cathedral archives have revealed a prolific composer who has gone largely unnoticed: Antonio Juanas (c.1762–c.1818), whose many musical compositions at the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral had never been published or recorded until recently. This paper offers a brief overview of the music history of the cathedral music in the viceregal era of Mexico; explores the life and vast musical output of Antonio Juanas as maestro de capilla; and presents a preliminary analysis of Juanas’ musical style—particularly in his works for smaller performing forces—by examining autograph scores, edited transcriptions, and recent recordings.
Sarah Eyerly (Florida State University): “’Ave verum corpus/ Opinak ikkeliojotit’: Performing Mozart in Coastal Labrador”
Beginning in the 1770s, the German-Moravian church established missions among the Inuit in coastal Labrador. A significant number of sacred vocal pieces performed in communities such as Nain and Makkovik were Inuktitut contrafacts of popular European operas and sacred music, including W. A. Mozart’s motet, “Ave verum corpus/Opinak ikkeliojotit.” Despite the origins of this repertory as an attempt by Moravian missionaries to erase traditional Inuit musical culture, over two centuries of performance and copying, European classical music has become indigenized into a new, hybrid style of performance representing Inuit agency in the face of cultural and religious colonization. The performance of this music is today recognized as an Inuit cultural practice by the Nunatsiavut government. Inuit adaptations of “Ave verum corpus/Opinak ikkeliojotit” and other European music demonstrate that contemporary studies of historical performance practices demand broader, hemispheric perspectives, and acknowledgments that the spread of European material and musical culture includes the perspectives of indigenous musicians, scribes, and composers. Musical and linguistic syncretism can be subversive—it can encode and it can symbolize. Borrowing, mixing, re-use, and re-composition, are all strategies for negotiating changing circumstances and traditions, regardless of whether those changes are induced by external processes such as colonization or by internal processes within particular cultures or groups. As scholars and performers, we must consider not only the dominant narratives of colonial agents, including the Moravian church, but also the voices and musical traditions of indigenous communities in the Americas that are also a part of this narrative.
Cesar D. Favila (UCLA): “Musicking in Women’s Convents of New Spain”
Rulebooks, devotional books, and nuns’ hagiographies from early modern New Spain provide rich and often allegorical details of everyday life within women’s convents, including evidence of music making. The coro is a space frequently discussed in this literature with good reason. Cloistered nuns spent the majority of their day in this space singing the Divine Office. It was blocked off from the church with grates and was the quintessential location where agency was negotiated through nuns’ efforts to please God, themselves, and their convent patrons with music. This paper focuses on this most important musical space within convents ofNew Spain. It brings to light some rarely performed music that once resonated within this architecturally unusual choir structure that was built as an elevated space between the private and public. Within their coro, nuns could be heard singing by the laity in the main body of the church, but they were not visible to them. Convent musicians were thus allegorized as angels, because they were physically positioned above the ground floor, because parishioners in the church could not see them, and because nuns were idealized as virgins, a status that the coro symbolically guarded—even if some of the nuns had lost their virginity.
Through the writings of male clerics about how nuns should and should not live their cloistered lives, we also learn that this musical space was priviledged, gendered, and highly racialized. Nuns were in a constant liminal state, at once complicit in a colonial agenda wherein their musical performances relied on the service of indigenous servants and black slaves. At the same time, the nuns were themselves subject to rules manufactured by men and the omnipresent eye of God who manifested his regulations through visions and auditions to priviledged mystic nuns of exemplary virtue. Overall, the nuns’ thoughtful and prayerful musicking inside the coro was said to accompany the angel choirs in heaven, but when they disobeyed God and their prelates, they could even attract demons.
Nicholas Gebhardt (Birmingham City University): “When Jazz Was Foreign: Jazz Historiography and New Orleans’ Congo Square”
In their ground breaking 1976 essay, The Birth of African-American Culture, Sidney Mintz and Richard Price argued for more detailed historical analysis of the origins and development of New World societies and the cultural forms that emerged from them (Mintz and Price, 1992). Rejecting a static model of continuity and inheritance among the different groups of African slaves that were transported to the Americas, their study called attention to the complexity and contradictions of the transatlantic experience and highlighted the creativity and diversity of African-American cultures. “The holistic concept of culture implied in [the model that posits a single African culture as the source for a particular New World tradition],” they wrote, “has the effect of masking the processes implicit in both the continuities and discontinuities between Africa and the Americas. To assume that the slaves in any colony were somehow committed culturally to one or another path of development both evades the empirical question of what really happened, and masks the central theoretical issue of how cultures change” (ibid: 16-17). Their work aimed to challenge the conventional view of African American culture as some sort of undifferentiated whole, in which experience of slave populations was a uniform one, and the movement from African societies to the Americas was both direct and continuous.
This paper uses Mintz and Price’s work as a starting point for rethinking jazz historiography by shifting our focus towards a more dynamic and historically grounded conception of cultural encounter and transformation. The first part examines several well-known seventeenth and eighteenth century accounts of slave cultures and considers what they can tell us about the initial situation of Africans in any New World colony in all its complexity. In particular, I will explore the concepts ofcreolization and hybridity, and reflect on their usefulness for analyzing African musical practices in the new world. The second part of the paper concentrates on the debate about the importance of New Orleans’ Congo Square, or Place des Negres, to the emergence of jazz. No other single place has been mentioned more often in scholarly speculations about the origins of jazz or about the relationship of antebellum African American music making to jazz. And yet its place in the story of how early jazz came to be remains obscured by inaccuracies and inseparable from local folklore; stories of slave gatherings abound, but there is hardly any evidence of what happened in the Square or the kind of music that was performed there. The significance of Congo Square for jazz history, therefore, speaks to central theoretical concerns about the nature of evidence and the processes of historical inquiry. The paper concludes by engaging with those concerns and proposing an alternative account of the Square and its historical meaning for popular music studies.
Julia Hamilton (Columbia University): “Circulating Abolitionism through Song: Poetry, Politics, and Music in 1780s Britain”
The historiography of British slave trade abolition has long reflected the importance of what J. R.Oldfield terms “abolition at the grass–roots level.” Nonetheless, scholars have been selectiveabout the types of abolitionist activities that merit attention. The publication of poetry, for example, has often been privileged over the complementary activity of musical composition. This paper looks anew at eighteenth-century British composers from the perspective of contemporary abolitionist poets: that is, as potential agents for the circulation of abolitionist poetry. I present two case studies in the transformation of anti-slave trade poetry into song, analyzing the creation and reception history of two poems written in 1788.
The first case study centers on “The African,” co-written by James Currie and William Roscoe. Letters written by Currie reveal the authors’ conception of this poem as one that could be set to music. They published it in London newspapers, edited it into a short format, and downplayed some of the least palatable elements of the slave trade in the hopes of “attracting the notice” ofmultiple composers. The second case study focuses on William Cowper’s “The Negro’sComplaint.” Cowper’s letters show that he was unaware of composers as agents who could potentially circulate his poem widely: he assumed “The Negro’s Complaint” would only be sungto the tune of “Hosier’s Ghost” by street musicians, just as he had intended. Yet his poem was so popular that it was set to music by eight composers.
These two examples highlight, in contrasting ways, the importance of composers for the dissemination of anti-slave trade ideas. While Currie and Roscoe’s poem was only set to musictwice, they understood the potential for composers to act as circulators of abolitionist poetry – apotential realized in the many settings of Cowper’s poem.
David R. M. Irving (ICREA & Institució Milà i Fontanals–CSIC, Barcelona): “Lignophilia, Colonialism, and Music: The Trans-Atlantic and Eurasian-African Lumber Trades and Their Impact on Early Modern Musical Instruments”
In early modern Europe, exotic materials became increasingly naturalized and normalized within local music cultures through the systematic extraction, movement, and consumption of natural resources from around the world. Experimentation with woods, metals, and fibres as a result of new global trade routes, and the intensification or new domination over existing networks, created models and prototypes for musical instruments that would gradually gain currency as standardized forms. From the early sixteenth century onward, the intimate relationship between instrument-makers and natural resources within Europe was changed profoundly by encounters with new waves of botanical and biological specimens from around the world, followed by voluminous imports of newly favored materials on an unprecedented scale. The trans-Atlantic exchange, together with the intensification of Eurasian-African trade and commerce, enabled instrument makers to identify woods with unique physical properties, offering new technical and acoustical possibilities. For instance, bowmakers in Europe sought for centuries to find types of woods that were sufficiently light and flexible to be used dextrously on string instruments, yet stiff and strong enough to produce a good tone. The most musically influential of any tropical hardwoods were arguably Piratinera guianensis (today “snakewood”) and Caesalpinia echinata (pernambuco), from Guyana and Brazil respectively. The latter eventually became the almost exclusive wood for bows of the violin family. For woodwind instruments, too, diverse materials were tried and tested, mostly from Eurasia-Africa. Encounters of European scientists and craftspeople with global materials triggered a host of botanical, biological, acoustical studies, some of which considered the musical propensities and sonic potentialities of natural resources. This paper analyzes documentary evidence drawn from natural histories, travelogues, inventories, and records of commerce to shed new light on the creative opportunities afforded to musicians and instrument-makers through the significant influx of materials from around the world, beyond Europe’s imagined boundaries.
Mary Caton Lingold (Virginia Commonwealth University): “Reviving Mr. Baptiste, a 17th-Century Composer of African Music”
All we know about the man who composed three pieces of African music in Hans Sloane’s Voyage to the Islands… (1707)is that his name was “Mr. Baptiste” and that Sloane considered him to be “the best musician there” (l). It is not clear whether or not Sloane meant that Baptiste was the best musician in all of Jamaica in 1688, or if he was the best musician at “one of their Festivals when a great many of the Negro Musicians were gathered” (l). The imprecise characterization has led most to assume that he was a Francophone colonist, however I argue that he was instead likely a free person of African descent, possibly from a Spanish colony. Baptiste’s compositions, “Angola,” “Papa,” and “Koromanti” comprise a rare record of African vernacular music in the Americas, and until now, little attention has been paid to man behind the transcriptions. Mr. Baptiste is, to my knowledge, the first published Jamaican composer of written music, and may also be one of the earliest black composers of Western music in the world. However, the records documenting Baptiste’s life that I uncovered in the Jamaica National Archives challenge each of these categories, making it all the more difficult to substantiate his contributions and legacy.
Mr. Baptiste’s story offers insight also into the way enslaved musicians and their descendants circulated and transformed performance traditions across the Atlantic world in the era of slavery. I co-created a website that tells the story of the Baptiste’s music and the enslaved musicians who inspired it. This project (Musical Passage: A Voyage to 1688 Jamaica(www.musicalpassage.org co-created with historian Laurent Dubois and composer David Garner) features recorded interpretations alongside historical and cultural context. The project, which was launched in 2016, aims to bring the historical artifact to wider audiences, and has recently led to the performance of Baptiste’s transcriptions in Jamaica, where two ensembles, the Nyabinghi band Inna da Yard led by Earl “Chinna” Smith, and the University of West Indies, Mona Chorale, have interpreted the compositions. By considering the scant textual records of Baptiste’s life alongside these contemporary interpretations, I construct a portrait of Mr. Baptiste while emphasizing the abundant legacy of enslaved and free African musicians of the Caribbean.
Francesco Milella (University of Cambridge): “From Italy to Mexico. Stefano Cristiani and Operatic Connections in Early Nineteenth-Century Atlantic”
The birth of the new Latin American nations at the dawn of the nineteenth century was followed by a substantial change in musical tastes and practices across the region: within a few decades, the Italian operatic repertoire took over from the heterogenous array of colonial musical traditions and came to dominate musical exchanges that shaped post-revolutionary Atlantic connections. Mexico, for instance, developed a thriving operatic scene in the 1820s through the agency of singers and composers such as Manuel García (1827 – 1829) and Filippo Galli (1831 – 1838). This paper, however, will look not at these well-known figures, but will instead seek to rethink the transition decades from colonisation to independence (1800-1825) as a pivotal moment for understanding the conditions that made the later triumph of Italian opera possible. Drawing on the concept of “interrupted continuities” (M. Brown & G. Paquette) that shaped the cultural and political networks between the two sides of the early-nineteenth-century Atlantic, the paper will focus on the life and music of a forgotten Italian composer, Stefano Cristiani (1770-182?), who moved to Spain at the end of the eighteenth century to then settle, from 1816 to 1825, in Cuba and Mexico to compose and perform, with great success, both zarzuelas and Italian operas. By means of an analysis of the manuscripts of his European and American compositions, as well as of the newspapers and other documents of the time, the paper will argue that his international and hybrid musical identity can help us to understand the transition in Mexico from Ancien Régime colonialism towards post-revolutionary musical modernity.
Žak Ozmo (L’Avventura, London): A Case Study for Investigating the Musical Legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade: 18th-Century Portuguese Modinhas and Villancicos negros
Scholars working on black music in the eighteenth century know that there has been a scarcity of musical sources in this area. But music libraries throughout Portugal hold in their archives countless modinhas and villancicos negros, 17th- and 18th-century song types that are influenced by an early Afro-Brazilian musical tradition, and in some cases even written by people of color. From an investigation into these songs, we can easily see the enormous impact that enslaved people and freemen arriving from Portuguese Brazilian and African colonies had on music making in Portugal. Not only was this music created and performed by these arrivals, but many Portuguese composers (António da Silva Leite, Marcos Portugal, José Maurício) also wrote modinhas and regularly imitated Afro-Brazilian sounds in their compositions. This music makes an excellent case study for examining issues of assimilation and appropriation in the Atlantic world. Furthermore, I propose that we might begin with the modinhas and villancicos negros, and with Portugal, the first European slave-trading power, when we begin to consider how the music of enslaved Africans and free men and women in European colonies and countries impacted the development of Western music as a whole.
Esperanza Rodríguez-García (Universidade Nova de Lisboa): “From Aragon to Portugal and New Spain: the Lives of the Motet O admirabile commercium Through its Sources”
This paper will explore the different versions of the motet O admirabile commercium by Juan Illario (fl. early 16th century) and its circulation from Spain to the Americas in the sixteenth century. The piece is copied in various manuscripts created at different points in diverse cultural areas. In its earliest version, it appears in manuscript M454 of the Biblioteca de Catalunya (E-Bbc 454). This composite volume, probably copied in Barcelona in the early decades of the sixteenth century, betrays connections to the Spanish royal courts. The next version, in manuscript 2/3 of Tarazona Cathedral (E- TZ 2/3), was copied in the 1550s. Its origin is also uncertain, Seville Cathedral and Tarazona Cathedral being two possible locations for its compilation. The third version appears in a group of manuscripts copied for the use at the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra (Portugal) in the mid-sixteenth century (now at the library of the Universidade de Coimbra: P-Cug MM12, P-Cug MM32, P-Cug MM48, P- Cug MM53). Finally, the motet is copied in two late-sixteenth century manuscripts from the pueblo of San Juan Ixcoi, in the department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. They are currently held in the Lily Library, Indiana University, Bloomington (US-BLl4 and US-BLl 8).
The paper will examine the different versions of the motet, which include instrumental renditions, reworking, amendments, omissions, extensions of the musical material, and variations in the text. More crucially, the paper will discuss the motivations and the role of cultural disparities behind these changes. A crucial divide between the sources from the Iberian Peninsula and the ones created in New Spain arise: whereas the former follow similar patterns of liturgical adjustment, the latter indicate a deeper transcultural transformation of the repertories that goes beyond religious purposes, also entailing ideological and political ones.
Maria Ryan (University of Pennsylvania): “Dancing for Themselves: Centering Black Experiences of Military Music in the British Colonial Caribbean”
An undated watercolor “A Dance in Jamaica” by Emeric Essex Vidal (1791-1861) shows four black women dancing to a military band. The music is not for them, and yet, they dance, each seemingly absorbed in her own gestures. A few decades earlier, a satirical print “A Grand Jamaica Ball!” (1802) depicts musicians playing from a balcony: on the right five members of a white military band, and far from them, on the extreme left, five faceless, black, violinists. These depictions—of black musicians playing alongside white military musicians, and of enslaved women dancing to a military band—are a reminder that European music in the Caribbean always included, either deliberately or inadvertently, African and African-descended people. Little is known about black enslaved fiddlers, and even less is known about how enslaved black women may have experienced music in multi-racial spaces.
I am curious about the black people in these images. However, using iconographic sources in colonial archives to center black people’s experiences requires deliberate and creative methods to prevent reproducing the same silences and modes of representation that the archive immediately presents. I take these images as a challenge to interrogate the order of the one who represents, and the one who is represented, instead embracing the messier experience of embodied life in the slave societies of the colonized Caribbean. This is not to say that subjugation, violence, and exploitation were not part of the day-to-day experiences of African and African-descended people. Rather, that historiographical emphasis on these narratives can preclude any possibility that these same people could feel accomplishment, desire, or even pleasure, within and despite systems designed to dehumanize and extract their labor. One might decide to label these practices as subversive, but it is also possible to imagine them as a personal creative strategy, in the process destabilizing what might otherwise be read as a “hybrid,” or creolized European music. Drawing on black queer and black feminist theory, as well as archival work in the United Kingdom and Caribbean, I suggest that by engaging with the African and African-descended musicians, dancers, and observers depicted in scenes of colonial music-making, it becomes impossible to extend a linear history of European music to include the colonized Caribbean. Rather, this engagement demands a black-centered mode of creating and theorizing music of European origin.
Guillermo Salas Suarez (Case Western Reserve University): “‘Templar el violin’: Fiddlers and Social Mobility in New Spain”
By the second half of the 18th century, the inclusion and standardization of European musical instruments in the New World had been solidified in virtually all social strata. Certain instruments complied with a series of duties that categorically prescribed their use based on their social function, and therefore, were inexorably linked to realms where high and low style were irreconcilable. Other instruments, however, were able to surpass this duality, finding themselves in all sorts of environments. This paper traces the role of the violin in the viceroyalty of New Spain (present Mexico and Central America) as cultural mediator between social classes and structures of power. The violin channeled a crosspollinization betwen the church, the nobility, and the natives, as well as between education and entertainment that helped to diffuse, if only momentarily, the frames of an otherwise highly classist society. A recital section includes music from the Mexico Cathedral Archives, the Eleanor Hague Manuscript, and the inventory from the Marques del Jaral’s sheet music.
Benjamin Walton (University of Cambridge): Listening Through the Operatic Voice in 1820s Rio de Janeiro
In this paper I focus on the acoustic geography of Rio de Janeiro in the 1820s, as a way to situate both the explosion of operatic performance in the city at the time and the explosion of local operatic criticism that sought to regulate and control it. In this context, I concentrate on the instability and frequent inadequacy of the operatic voice as purported bearer of European civilization and on the fears that such inadequacy engendered in critical discourse. At the same time, I also consider the place of the operatic voice within the broader sonic cultures of a city characterized by Europeans and North American merchants and travellers as at once unusually noisy, given the ubiquity of slavery (as much audible as visible), and unusually quiet, in its lack of spaces for northern European forms of sociability, and in the apparent silence imposed on upper-class creole women. Any rhetorical attempts by critics of the time to separate the opera house from the city by appeal to its exclusivity thereby failed in multiple ways, in relation to events on stage and off; ways that might encourage opera scholars to think more carefully about opera within wider urban landscapes of music and sound, and about the operatic voice as (faulty) “technology of selfhood” (to borrow Nina Eidsheim’s phrase); but that also challenge later categorizations of operatic performance in early nineteenth-century Brazil as a straightforward vessel for the transmission of colonial values.