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Master Class I: Five Musical Countries in Five Lectures: Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Cuba

Professor Walter A. Clark

Everyone likes Latin American music, be it bossa nova, mariachi, salsa, tango, or the Andean panpipes. But how many of us can tell a huayno from a bolero or a chacarera from a zapateado? How many know that European music flourished in Mexico during the Renaissance, or that one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers wrote a ballet about Argentine gauchos? This lecture series will take us on a fascinating journey through space and time, exploring various styles of music from five musical powerhouses in Latin America, all within the historical and cultural context of each region.

October 4: Mexico

Mexico is the Latin American country most familiar to us, and we all enjoy mariachi music and dance from Jalisco in the west. But there are many regional styles of music (sones), from the north (norteño), east (jarocho), and south (son de marimba), as well as the pan-Mexican corrido and ranchera. Classical music stretches back to Pre-Columbian times, as the Aztecs had a complex music culture. They readily adapted to European music, and the three-century colonial period is especially rich. Twentieth-century composers like Manual Ponce and Carlos Chávez drew inspiration from Mexico’s varied folklore in writing their concert masterpieces.

October 18: Brazil

Brazil received more African slaves than any other area in the New World, and this Afro-Brazilian presence has had an enormous impact on the country’s music and dance, e.g., the samba. This gave rise to bossa nova around 1960, as well as other types of popular music. The mines of Minas Gerais generated the wealth to support great composers and ensembles during the colonial period, and Rio de Janeiro’s Heitor Villa-Lobos ranks among the most prominent classical composers of the twentieth century. His music exhibits the influence not only of Brazilian popular styles but also of Bach!

November 1: Argentina

The tango is one of the most recognizable and enduringly popular types of Latin American music. Though a cosmopolitan art form born in Buenos Aires, the tango’s origins are in the rural pampas (grasslands) among Argentine cowboys, the gauchos. Rugged, colorful characters, gauchos are also noted for their skills as singers, poets, and guitarists. The chacarera, milonga, and payada are a few of the songs and dances for which they are renowned. Gaucho culture and lifeways provided the inspiration for the greatest of modern Argentine composers, Alberto Ginastera, whose ballet Estancia (The Ranch) is a delightful masterwork.

November 15: Peru

The Andes are the defining geographical feature of Peru’s culture, as they gave the native peoples refuge and allowed for the persistence of their customs. We will examine music of the Peruvian altiplano (highlands), with special emphasis on the haunting sounds of the zampoñas (panpipes) and the high-pitched singing of the huayno, musical practices that go back to Inca times. We will also look at a rich heritage of European music. The first opera composed in the New World was produced in Lima in 1701. We will also look at classical music of today and its political overtones.

November 29: Cuba

Cuba was among the first New World areas colonized by the Spaniards, and it was the last to leave their colonial grasp. The long association of Spanish colonists with African slaves and freedmen helped to create a plethora of distinctive songs and dances, such as the bolero, rumba, son, and danzón. Cuban pop strongly influenced salsa and Latin jazz. During the Castro regime, Cuba was one of the few communist countries with a flourishing avant-garde, and composers like Leo Brouwer wrote not only beautiful works imbued with the island’s infectious rhythms and melodies but also experimental pieces of an international character.

Instructor: Walter Aaron Clark is a Distinguished Professor of Musicology at UC Riverside, where he is founder/director of the Center for Iberian and Latin American Music. He received his doctorate in musicology from UCLA and holds performance degrees in classical guitar from the University of North Carolina and UCSD. He has authored biographies on many Latin American composers.

Coordinator: Steve Clarey

Course Number: OSHR-70055   Credit: 0 units

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