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Paper 15: Music, Nationalism and Politics in Spain

Aims and Objectives

  • To situate Spanish musics in relation to their historical, social and political contexts
  • To examine critically the relationship between music, nationalism and politics in Spain, both historically and today
  • To explore how wider theoretical issues in ethnomusicology such as identity, ethnicity, representation, diaspora and ethnography might apply to Spanish musics

Description of the Course

This course will focus on the relationship between music, nationalism and politics in Spain, where students will examine divergent musical representations of Spanish-ness. In the popular imagination, Spain invokes a number of alluring stereotypes: sun, sand, passion, dark-haired gypsies and flamenco. In the musical domain flamenco has come to represent the country, leading to the perpetuation of stereotypes of Spanish musical culture that are based on southern Spanish customs. Students will be encouraged to look beyond these dominant stereotypes, exploring how music can unravel deep-seated tensions regarding national identity, regional identity and representation in Spain. Since the nineteenth century, Spanish music has been caught up in wider debates concerning national versus regional identity politics. Today, Spain is divided into seventeen autonomous communities with each regional government having powers over the representation of its own regional culture and identity. Music has become an important factor in the expression of regional identity in some regions, as autonomous communities continue to balance regional and national interests. However, a number of external factors have complicated musical production and representation in Spain such as globalisation, immigration and European politics.

A large portion of the course will be devoted to the study of flamenco, but students will also be introduced to a range of other key musical genres in Spain including: art music, copla, popular music and hybrid genres especially amongst migrant communities. Tracing a historical trajectory from the late-nineteenth century until the present day, the course will demonstrate the role of music in Spanish identity politics. This will encourage students to challenge conventional understandings of musical nationalism. Students will also be introduced to a number of theoretical perspectives in ethnomusicology regarding nationalism/regionalism, identity, ethnicity, representation and diaspora. Topics will include:

  • Nineteenth/twentieth century Spanish art music: orientalism, folklore, nationalism and regionalism in the works of national composers (e.g., Manuel de Falla);
  • Music during the Franco regime: nationalism, tourism and folk music;
  • Popular music and the Spanish transition to democracy (1970s/80s): ‘la movida’, politics and globalisation after Franco’s Spain;
  • Flamenco – past and present: historical narratives, ethnicity vs regional identity and cultural policy in Andalusia;
  • Music in multicultural Spain: diaspora and hybridity amongst migrant communities in Spanish popular music.

The course will be taught as eight 90-minute seminars, alongside four small-group supervisions where students will be expected to read set texts and prepare essays or presentation tasks. As well as drawing upon a range of relevant literature in Spanish music studies and (ethno)musicology, lectures will also include a number of audio-visual examples to illustrate the genres covered in the course.

Lecturer: Matthew Machin-Autenrieth

Study Music at Cambridge