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  • Una historia de la música colonial hispanoamericana by Leonardo J. Waisman
  • Javier Marín-López
    Translated by Malena Kuss
Una historia de la música colonial hispanoamericana. By Leonardo J. Waisman. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2019. ISBN: 978-987-3823-24-4. Paper. Pp. 480. $37.50.

As colonial music scholars cross the threshold into the twenty-first century, they face challenges that, far from being circumscribed to their field of study, have impacted the humanities and social sciences as a whole. On the one hand, specialization in ever-narrowing aspects of the field and the concomitant proliferation of sources, publications, and approaches have accelerated the fragmentation and atomization of knowledge. Coupled with the ubiquity of incomprehensible lacunae, these tendencies cannot but segment and scatter the realities that scholars aim to reconstruct. On the other hand, the radical critiques of epistemological paradigms that reject totalizing and linear historical narratives, in addition to politicizing methodologies, camouflage the particular character of their methods, even when the concealment resorts to categories and language deemed neutral and universal. How can we approach the complexities of unfolding the long-term processes that shaped the history of colonial music in Latin America in the face of an unwieldy avalanche of studies sometimes difficult to access? How can we reconcile the menacing gap with the terminal "crisis" affecting paradigms of historical inquiry? In what ways can we accomplish these tasks in a postneocolonial historiographical context?

These are some of the formidable challenges that Leonardo J. Waisman confronts in his long-awaited monograph, Una historia de la música colonial hispanoamericana, published in 2019 by Gourmet Musical Ediciones, the prolific press based in Buenos Aires under the stewardship of Leandro Donozo. For the author, well-known in the field of colonial music studies for his research on the Jesuit missions of South America, this work marks the culmination of a project whose origin reaches back three decades.1 According to Waisman, his purpose is to offer "a sketch of musical life in Hispanic America between the reigns of Philip II (who acceded to the throne in 1558) and Charles IV (who abdicated in 1808)" (11). To accomplish the task, he validates the concept of "colonial music," which he identifies as the sum total of musical practices and repertoires of European roots (whether academic or popular) cultivated by peninsular, criollo, Amerindian, Black, and mixed-race people (with the exclusion of what Waisman calls "ethnic musics") in a context wherein power was clearly asymmetrical, as he reminds us by quoting the semiotician Walter Mignolo.2 The ambition of the intellectual enterprise and the geographic and chronological depth of the field highlight the historical relevance of the task brilliantly undertaken by Waisman, who brings us the first substantive synthesis of colonial music in Latin America written in Spanish and published in book form.3

After the introduction, the work unfolds in three parts, dedicated respectively to the sixteenth (part 1, chapters 1–4), seventeenth (part 2, chapters 5–8), and eighteenth centuries (part 3, chapters 9–13). Two appendices close the volume. The first, ninety-three pages in length, offers biographies of 210 composers [End Page 119] active in Hispanic America between 1550 and 1808. It was prepared by Luciana Giron Sheridan and Lucas Reccitelli, both members of the Grupo de Musicología Histórica Córdoba.4 The second, of just over two pages, provides short definitions of instruments utilized during the period in question. These appendices are followed by an index of names, institutions, genres, and terms. Parts 1 and 3 include revised and updated versions of texts written by the author in 2000 and 2009 and published years later in editorial projects based in Spain.5 Part 2, dedicated to the seventeenth century, was written more recently and includes sections of considerable length dedicated to stylistic analysis of the repertoire, which, although missing in parts 1 and 3, do not detract from maintaining a focus on the peculiar sociocultural and historical context of the American viceroyalties.6

Several theoretical and practical issues are examined in the three parts. Perhaps the greatest challenge derives from the necessity of integrating different types of musics—practiced...


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