Early Music and Latin America. Transhistorical Views on the Coloniality of Sound
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Early Music and Latin America. Transhistorical Views on the Coloniality of Sound

  • Author(s): Michel, Melodie
  • Advisor(s): Hammond, Nicol
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation explores the Early Music history, practice, and repertoire from Latin America and places it in relation to recent challenges in musicology and ethnomusicology to decolonize our disciplines. This research is based on archival and ethnographic work conducted in Europe and Latin America in 2018 and 2019. I explore the geopolitics of knowledge that has placed Europe at the center of our historical narratives, and the strategies used by Europeans to maintain their privileged condition. I demonstrate how the racist and exclusive strategies that were at play in the Colonial music repertoire are still pervasive today in the ways we perform and listen to it. By exploring transnational and trans-historical musical practices, this dissertation shows how some of the tools that have been used in the past to racially delimit whiteness are still in use today, especially in predominantly white circles of Early Music performers and audiences. However, I argue that some circles of Early Music also have the potential to propose a different approach. In this work, I focus on the processes of coloniality that produce and reproduce eurocentric hegemony. Subsequently, I compare these processes to potential decolonial options from Latin America that seek to unveil and deconstruct these reproductions while simultaneously proposing other readings of Western Music history and ways to perform sounds from the past. The musical practice called Early Music, or Historically Informed Performance Practice (HIPP), is a sub-field of Western Art Music (WAM), both of which have drawn on and projected ethnocentric, racist, and colonial attitudes by minimizing artistic and historical contributions from places not at the European center. While Early Music is itself filled with critical attitudes and generally works to subvert established practices, the Early Music movement that has emerged in Latin America proposes even more nuanced critiques of the eurocentrism operative in Early Music and WAM in general. In this dissertation, I interrogate this history of construction and reproduction of coloniality throughout Western Art Music history and in its current practice, through the specific lens of Early Music practice in and from Latin America.

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