EOL book review: Garland/Latin America

EOL 5 book review

The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 2:
South America, Mexico,Central America, and the Caribbean.

Dale A. Olsen and Daniel E. Sheehy, eds. New York and London: Garland, 1998.

ISBN 0-8240-4947-0 (hard cover). 1082 pp. + CD recording in jacket.

Cover thumbnail

This excellent and invaluable volume, consistent with the rest of the Garland series, provides a fine balance of overview of state-of-the-field ethnomusicological method, general cultural/geographical/historical background, and vital data about specific societies.

The variety of contributors reflects Garland's commitment to a multidisciplinary examination of the field: "anthropologists, linguists, dance ethnologists, cultural historians, folklorists, literary scholars" (xi). This multidisciplinarity of perspective exemplifies the discourse today, and serves as a model for broad examinations. (Although contributors' institutions were listed, their departmental/disciplinary affiliations would also have been useful information).

The volume's general organization provides

  1. a general-to-specific hierarchy reflected at numerous levels; and
  2. plural and sometimes multiple treatments of the same subject matter at the introductory macro-survey and micro-specific short article levels.

Each section, whether general or specific, provides useful bibliographic references in English and other languages.

Part I: Introduction to the Music Cultures of the Regionis a sophisticated delineation of the complex boundaries and geographic and self-identification problems generated by tribal, ethnic, class and national affiliation; the short section entitled "Demography" (p. 4) exemplifies this very state-of-the-art awareness, partly offset by the inevitably greater essentialization found in Part III. The simple definition of ethnomusicology, which stresses interaction, thereby acknowledging the rapidly growing influence of performance studies, seems as good as any: "…the study of music made by people for themselves, their gods, and/or other people" (p. 4). "Approaches to Musical Scholarship" (pp. 6-25) perceptively treats the juxtaposition of intersecting archeological/iconographic/mythological parameters, rightly emphasizing the ambiguity of much of the evidence, and the degree to which they are applicable in various cultures.

Part II: Issues and Processes In the Music of South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean includes excellent general surveys of musical instruments (Olsen), social structure, musicians, and behavior (Seeger), genres and contexts (Seeger), musical dynamics (Seeger), Native American musical cultures, immigrant groups (Olsen), popular music (Gage Averill) followed by general articles on the non-Spanish speaking Caribbean (Averill), and Spanish-speaking Caribbean (Deborah Pacini Hernandez), Brazil (Charles Perrone), and art music (Olsen and Sheehy). The instruments chapter provides an insightful diachronic analysis of shifting contexts (good examples: chirimìa, p. 36 and military bands, p. 38). "Social Structure, Musicians, and Behavior" could serve as an ideal checklist for field research; "Musical Dynamics…" continues the tradition of this volume in its recognition of shifting, multilayered cultural affiliations, by comparison with older anthropological dualism (p. 67). "Popular Music: An Introduction" continues this orientation. "Pop Music of the [non-Hispanic]…Caribbean" rightly emphasizes the World Beat importance of these musics. The first paragraph (p. 100) of "Popular Music of the Spanish-Speaking Regions" exemplifies the modern scholarly approach:

Spanish-American popular musics are hybrids resulting from blending processes known as creolization, mestizaje, and syncretization, which developed in response to the encounter of European, Amerindian, and African cultures. Borrowing and blending have continued to enrich Spanish-American popular musics, most of which draw simultaneously from antecedent folkloric genres (themselves products of cultural blends) and contemporaneous popular musics.

After this passage we can almost hear Yul Brynner's words in his immortal role as the King of Siam, singing (with apologies to Hammerstein for my paraphrasing) "When I was young…what was, was; what was not, was not." Certainly those days of cultural dualism and essentialization are waning in ethnomusicology!

In "Popular Music of Brazil" we are reminded that "a dialectic of national or foreign input and influence has been a constant…Other key issues…have been migration, identity…via popular music, and the discourse of song…The author also emphasizes mass media and world beat connections. "Art Music" relies heavily on Gerard Béhague's major 1979 survey Music in Latin America: An Introduction, thus clearly indicating the relative and surprising dearth of subsequent work in this area.

Part III: Nations and Musical Traditions are divided into five major sections, each with an introduction, followed by individual case studies of "peoples" and "nations" (sometimes, as with Brazil, divided into regions) written by many leading scholars, all noteworthy for excellent and up-to-date syntheses of "the facts," and too numerous to mention individually. Occasional taxonomic (although not content-substantive) inconsistencies (as with the treatment of Native South American cultures) might be of concern to organizational obsessive-compulsives. The five subsections, with their introductions, are "Boundaries and Musics of Native South Americans" (Seeger), "Countries and Peoples of South America and Their Music" (Olsen), "Mexico…" (Sheehy), "Central America…" (Sheehy), and "Many Islands, Many Sounds [i.e., the Caribbean]" (Martha Ellen Davis).

Each article ends resources for "further study" and references. The volume also offers extensive bibliographies organized by general and specific subject matter, an excellent glossary with page indices as well as a traditional non-glossary index, and guides to recordings, films, and videos.

The accompanying recordings, while useful and excellent in quality, represent only a fraction of the cultures discussed in the volume. The choice of selections appears somewhat capricious: we find, for example, that highland Bolivia is represented by five examples while Cuba (the mother of Caribbean musical cultures) is entirely omitted. (Perhaps the editors decided Cuba was already sufficiently represented in commercial recordings?) While the recordings are cited in the texts of the articles to which they pertain, the reverse is unfortunately not true; the "Notes on the Audio Examples" do not list the article or page to which they pertain, potentially a slight inconvenience to someone who might begin by listening to the CD and reading the Notes. A few I found exceptionally interesting include:

AU iconAudio 1 (AU, 656 Kb): "Kulwa"

RealAudio iconAudio 1 (RealAudio): "Kulwa"

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CD cut 6, "Kulwa" (Audio 1, recorded by Henry Stobart in northern Potosì Department, Bolivia): some forty panpipers playing in a tuning system with conspicuously "spiraling" octaves
AU audio iconAudio 2 (AU, 611 Kb): Peruvian mixed ensemble

RealAudio iconAudio 2 (RealAudio): Peruvian mixed ensemble

CD cut 22, "Peruvian mixed ensemble" (Audio 2, recorded by Dale Olsen at the Festival de la Virgen del Carmen in Cajamarca, Peru): the unmistakable and unforgettable mixed ensemble spatial sense of an Andean festival; we hear vocalists, and pipe and tabor in antiphonal relationship with long clarín trumpets
AU audio iconAudio 3 (AU, 660 Kb): "Los Novios"

RealAudio iconAudio 3 (RealAudio): "Los Novios"

CD cut 33, "Los Novios" (Audio 3, recorded by T.M. Scruggs in Nicaragua): marimba de arco and guitar trio, in which the instruments and compound duple, zapateado-like dance resemble analogous Middle American ensembles and genres, but distinct from those of Mexico and Guatemala
AU audio iconAudio 4 (AU, 655 Kb): "Dice Desidera Arias"

RealAudio iconAudio 4 (RealAudio): "Dice Desidera Arias"

CD cut 35, "Dice Desidera Arias" (Audio 4, recorded by Dale Olsen in the Dominican Republic): a sweetly sung périco ripiao, in which the traditional marímbola bass lamellophone (which accompanies trés Cuban creole guitar, güira scraper, and tambor drum) is much more prominent and resonant than one normally hears, and (unlike most contemporary frenetic big-band merengue) the tempo refreshingly relaxed.

The contextually useful photos (all black-and-white except for the striking quasi-Rembrandtian chiaroscuro cover, a musician from Peru) vary somewhat in the clarity of their reproduction.

A few interesting examples:

Columbian duo photoFigure 1: Colombian duo of cow-bladder and
bamboo idiochordal struck zither.
(Figure 1) a Colombian duo of cow-bladder and bamboo idiochordal struck zither (p. 381), photo by William J. Gradante
Brazilian orixa photo thumbnailFigure 2: Devotion to Afro-Brazilian orichá/orixá Iemanjá on the banks of the Rìo de la Plata. (Figure 2) The conspicuously Non-Afro, i.e., typically "white" Uruguayan, devotion to Afro-Brazilian orichá/orixá Iemanjá on the banks of the Río de la Plata (p. 515: El País newspaper archive)
Venezuelan quitiplas photo thumbnailFigure 3: Venezuelan quitiplás stamping tubes. (Figure 3) Max Brandt's striking action shot of Venezuelan quitiplás stamping tubes (p. 527)
Yaqui pascola dancers photo thumbnailFigure 4: Yaqui pascola dancers. (Figure 4) James S. Griffith's Yaqui pascola dancers amid saguaros in an Arizona ramada (p. 591)
Afro-Dominican photo thumbnailFigure 5: Afro-Dominican "Salve de la Virgen." (Figure 5) Martha Ellen Davis's Afro-Dominican "Salve de la Virgen" (p. 848), in which the group members are focused upon one another as well as the altar.
The few inaccuracies inevitably found in very broad introductory sections in no way detract from the ambitious, historic and invaluable achievements of this volume. As I have noted earlier, the scholarly approach is at least as important as the "factual" material (most of which can, of course be gleaned from the other sources in which the numerous authors have already published more extensive versions). Sophisticated, perceptive perspectives, combined with multi-level approaches to the material combine in this remarkable work, a requirement for all serious scholars and every library. Garland's editors and contributors are to be warmly congratulated.

Ted Solís

Ted Solís is associate professor of music at the School of Music, Arizona State University, and director of "Marimba Maderas de Comitán." His research areas have included the Puerto Rican diaspora, Mexico, and India.

The Review Editor thanks Gemma Garcia for assistance in making this web page.

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