This course examines understandings of musical modernity in Latin America since 1900. Primary sources and current scholarship illuminate compelling but underexplored repertories, whose appeal may spring from their paradoxical union of the classic and the contemporary, the foreign and the local, the colonized and the decolonized, and the tonal and departures from the tonal. Critically engaging with shifting conceptions of “modernism,” we examine celebrated figures such as Alberto Ginastera, Carlos Chávez, and Leo Brouwer, along with lesser-known composers such as Felipe Boero, Hilda Paredes, and Julián Carrillo. Student work includes responses to class readings and a final paper and presentation.


In this seminar, we will develop an aesthetic of modernist and postmodernist music through the concept of movement gained in a close study of collaborations between composers, choreographers, and visual artists. We will ask how the movement of bodies and machines inspired musical innovations across the twentieth century. Students will also map historical shifts in how artists and audiences perceived the boundary between time- and space-based art by analyzing how music demands we reassess our experience of movement in space. Students will read broadly in musicology, dance studies, and gender and sexuality studies. Weekly topics include but are not limited to: the works by Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, and others for the Ballets Russes and the Ballet Suédois; the theories of Émile Jacques-Dalcroze; Mary Wigman and German Expressionist dance; Aaron Copland’s collaboration with Martha Graham; the work of John Cage and Merce Cunningham; and the experimental pieces of Fluxus composers La Monte Young and Yoko Ono. Students will participate in weekly discussion and complete a final project developed in consultation with the instructor.