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Musical revolutions: The promotion of new music in Machado’s Cuba

Rae, Caroline ORCID: 2016. Musical revolutions: The promotion of new music in Machado’s Cuba. Presented at: Music and Nation 1918-1945 – Europe-Americas (II), Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, UK, 23-24 November 2016.

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Elected President of Cuba in 1924, General Gerardo Machado clung to power until finally deposed in the Revolution of 1933 when political control was seized by Fulgencio Batista, plunging Cuba from an increasingly oppressive and authoritarian frying pan into a despotic fire. Musical and cultural life in the Cuban capital was equally turbulent as the rising stars of the leftist Grupo Minorista, an intellectual militant tendency that included the young writer Alejo Carpentier among its members, sought to challenge the entrenched conservatism of Havana’s ruling classes through the promotion of new music and new art. Waging cultural war against the perceived establishment taste for nineteenth-century Italian opera and the German symphonic repertory that dominated performances at the Teatro Nacional, Pro-Arte Musical Sociedad and Orquesta Sinfónica, Carpentier extolled the revolutionary virtues not only of the Russian works of Stravinsky but also of contemporary French music in his already extensive music criticism. Exasperated with the failure of the Orquesta Filharmónica, founded in 1924, to introduce more innovative programming, Carpentier and his composer associate Amadeo Roldán, founded the Conciertos de Música Nueva in 1926, the first Cuban society for the promotion of new music, and the following year embarked on collaborative projects for two ballets, with stage designs by Minorista colleague José Hurtado de Mendoza, that despite their Afro-Cuban subject matter bore witness to the influence of European-based modernism. This paper contextualises the innovative programming of Carpentier’s new music concerts against a background of his musical writings, investigating their combined influence on other musical organisations in Cuba: María Muñoz de Quevedo’s Sociedad de Música Contemporanea, Alejandro García Caturla’s Orquesta de Conciertos de Caibarién and concerts of the Pan American Association of Composers. It will be shown that despite the oppressive nature of Machado’s political regime, Cuba witnessed a flowering of musical liberalism during the late 1920s and early 1930s in which the advent of European modernism paradoxically catalysed the assertion of Cuban national identity.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 08:39

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