Modernism and Latin American Classical Music By Herrera, Eduardo
The idea of musical modernism in the Latin American classical music world was a particular aesthetically-oriented instance of a broader discourse that has been described as ‘modernist capitalist-cosmopolitan’. The general modernist discourse was centered on the binary opposition modern/traditional that naturalizes a particular notion of temporal condition with a value judgment—that which is ‘modern’ is new, recent, and more efficient, against that which is ‘traditional’ which is old, has been passed on, and is less efficient. By 1918, at the end of the Great War, the prevalent ideology of ’progress’ that was naturalized throughout industrialization in the 19th century had suffered its first major drawback. If society was progressing, how was it that Europe ended in such a wide and costly war? What was the place for artists in such conditions? Composers as diverse as Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Skryabin, and Busoni became associated with the notion of modernism. Self-proclaimed futurist artists in Italy during the 1910s like Luigi Russolo and Francesco Balilla Pratella, advocated for a music that incorporated the sounds of the industries and the ‘modem’ city. By localizing artistic production in the urban setting against the rural soundscapes, the concept of the ‘modern’ captured also space, making the rural to be associated with the idea of ‘traditional’. A final key aspect of this discursive construction of the ‘modern’ was the way in which it represented a paradigmatic shift from 19th century discourses that divided the world into ‘civilized’ and ‘primitive’ practices.