First conference of the ARLAC – IMS

“Latin America and the Canon”

First conference of the IMS Regional Association for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Casa de las Américas, Havana, March 17-21, 2014.

The theme of this conference, “Latin America and the canon,” invites us to explore the concept of cultural pantheons (of works, composers, genres, sound ideals, performers, paradigmatic renditions, instruments, oral traditions, etc.) and reflect upon the strategies that regulate both inclusion and exclusion, as well as the construction and resilience of an expressive corpus deemed referential and capable of representing a tradition within a specific historical context. Neither immutable nor vulnerable to total demolition, the presence of a canon (defined as cultural sediment and not as carrier of aesthetic authority, although this connotation might be inevitable) functions as a symbolic anchor amidst forces of change, counteracting the cultural relativism associated with the coexistence of multiple semantic fields and a plurality of discourses.

It does not surprise us that the critical scaffoldings subtending the construction of relatively stable cultural patrimonies differ depending on whether they hail from Europe, the United States, or Latin America. We celebrate these differences and invite reflections on the broad range of possibilities suggested by this theme from different perspectives and fields of specialization. As cultural theory fades and without exhuming discarded discourses, we are compelled to reconsider, from the perspective of Latin America’s history of ideas, the relevance of the formidable critical apparatus that has nourished canon construction and the tensions generated by its persistence and rejection in new contexts, contemplating a “return to music” (Egberto Bermúdez) that would transcend text and act (Taruskin) and restore the inclusion of codes. As Héctor Rubio reminds us, “Foregoing a knowledge of codes, or working from a limited knowledge of codes, can only lead us to fallacies” (Revista Argentina de Musicología, 5–6 [2004/2005], 229). Tracing the critical journey of the concept in “Canon, hegemonía y experiencia estética” (Revista Argentina de Musicología, 5–6 [2004/2005], 17–44), Omar Corrado proposes some central points that can frame future reflections. These include

a reassessment of “facts” as raw material that can transcend epistemological solipsism without relinquishing critical vigilance; a greater emphasis on music-specific thinking, inclusive of sonority and expressivity; the need to historicize the discourse on music-specific parameters, thereby averting the danger of absolutism in analytical excess; and a recovery of discussions on value, namely on the aesthetic dimension of music in its broadest sense (39).

Malena Kuss
Coordinadora, ARALC/IMS
Cold Spring, New York, abril 18, 2013