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Module 4: Classical Fusion glossary (Smithsonian)

In this module you will learn about:

  1. The New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who wrote the first examples of world music and classical fusion by incorporating habaneras and Haitian rhythms into his classical pieces.
  2. European musical nationalism, as defined by Igor Stravinsky and Nadia Boulanger, which influenced composers from the Americas by urging them to seek inspiration for their classical compositions in the musical traditions of their homelands.
  3. Contemporary trends in classical music, one of which is represented by musicians and composers trained in he classical tradition and thoroughly versed in the folk and traditional musical heritages of their homelands, which they continue to incorporate into their concert pieces.

The prosperity of the French colony of Saint Domingue supported an educated upper middle class that integrated numerous wealthy mulatos. While most of these embraced the European musical tradition (like their counterpart from Guadaloupe, Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint Georges, the black Mozart), they were nevertheless receptive to the Creolized dance forms, such as the contredanse, that had developed in the island. Though we have already explored the dance hall derivations of the contredanse in Module Two, we need to explore the development of Afro-Caribbean influences on classical music beginning in the middle of the ninenteenth cenury, peaking in the 1920's, and continuing until today.

Assignment 1: Musical Melting Pot
Nineteenth century New Orleans, one of the most multicultural cities of its time, abounded with sporting houses and venues where music from diverse ethnic and cultural traditions played side by side and often fused. Raised in the midst of this cultural melting pot, the New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk later became a pioneer of global music and the darling of the French intelligentsia, always looking for innovation. Similarly, the Brazilian opera composer Carlos Gomes, the first American to be hailed by the Milan public, incorporated elements from the AfroBrazilian tradition in operas such as "O Escravo" ("The Slave"). Describe the popular elements that are incorporated into the selections by Gottschalk.

Assignment 2: Nationalism Revisited
While nineteenth century European nationalism attempted to revive the classical tradition by incorporating the "Volkgeist" or spirit of the people into national compositions, twentieth century musical nationalism from the two Americas had a more distinct and pressing goal: to define national and cultural identity as separate from that of the former colonial powers. Find out how Nadia Boulanger's teachings influenced the development of her students.

Assignment 3: Contemporary Trends
The rigid demarcation between classical and popular music has been blurred by classically trained musicians like Wynton Marsalis, Cyrus Chestnut, Paquito D'Rivera and Chucho Valdés, who are equally comfortable with both classical and popular traditions, and by chamber groups like the Camerata America and the Carpentier Quartet, both of which specialize in classical repertoires incorporating indigenous traditions. Describe how the works of William Bolcom and Awilda Villarini incorporate popular forms like ragtime and bomba into traditional chamber music.

Movers and Shakers
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) was arguably the first composer of global music. Born in New Orleans in 1829 of Haitian ancestry, he was exposed from an early age to the rich Caribbean and Creole cultures that thrived in this cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic city. It is said that his grandmother and his nurse Sally--both born in Saint Domingue--sang to him the native tunes that he soon learned in the piano and that later resurfaced in his unique compositions. Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979). Perhaps the most influential teacher of classical composition in the twentieth century, composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger taught composition to Roldán, Caturla, Copland, Phillip Glass, Elliott Carter, Virgil Thomson, Quincy Jones, Carlos Chávez, Astor Piazzolla and a host of other composers from both Americas. An important force in nationalism, she urged her students to search for inspiration in their national traditions. Heitor Villa-Lobos (1881-1959). Considered the most important Brazilian composer of the twentieth century and one of the most notable Latin American composers, Villa-Lobos extended to Brazilian music the nationalist ideas that had propelled Stravinsky, Copland, Gershwin, Roldán and Caturla in their respective musical milieus. Villa-Lobos found inspiration for his music in the carioca tradition, including the choro, the carnival samba and the ballroom samba of the twenties and thirties.
Audio Clip: Cuban Country Scenes   Audio Clip: Bachiana Brasileira #5
<more movers and shakers>


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Humanities Department, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)
31-10 Thomson Avenue, L.I.C., New York, NY 11101
This site was created with support from the LaGuardia Center for Teaching and Learning and is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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