Hammel, Stephan

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  • Publication
    Music, Aesthetics, Peripherality: Notes on a Philosophy of History of Latin American Music (1910-1973)
    (2013-01-01) Hammel, Stephan
    This dissertation is a theoretical treatment of the history of Latin American music in the twentieth century. It's central claim is twofold. First, the progressive development of a Latin American music was made possible and meaningful by the region's economic, political and cultural peripherality vis-á-vis the (neo-)colonial metropole: Western Europe and the United States. That peripherality was manifest as an attempt to find in Latin American particularity the grounds for universal significance. Reading this attempt in Kantian terms of conceptual determination, it appears as an aesthetics. Given the failure of imported concepts to adequately schematize the stuff of Latin American experience, that which was native to the region could only be determined reflectively in light of sense-data alone. Throughout the last century, musical compositions, genres, and practices sought to complete that process of determination, or else transcend it altogether. The second part of my claim is that those musical responses to the aesthetic problem of Latin American peripherality were ultimately consumed by the very duality of universality and particularity they sought to overcome. They share an aporetic structure proper to the eruption of geographical difference onto the historical plane. The dissertation revolves around three case studies. The first focuses on the composer Carlos Chavez, making perspicuous the stakes of his stylistic development in light of the peasant revolution of 1910. The second traces the intellectual history of the musical gauchesca, understanding this genre as turning on the contradictions of Argentine modernity in its identification with song and Nature as such. Finally, the last case study takes up Chilean Nueva Canción as it appeared in the years before the 1973 military coup. It represented a musical movement that sought out a place for aesthetics in the context of a socialist revolution. These three cases form a counterpoint to a philosophical discourse on the history of Latin America - one that demonstrates the shape and import of an idealist musicology.