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Colonial musical cultures: the case of early modern Manila

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Su Lin Lewis.

[Please note—this will be a lunchtime seminar. Sandwiches will be provided in the Rushmore room from 12.45pm]

In this presentation I intend, firstly, to theorise the concept of a ‘colonial musical culture’, and, secondly, to examine the case of early modern Manila and the Philippine Islands according to these precepts. Although there have been numerous isolated case studies of colonial musical cultures in musicological literature of the past half-century, the colonial musical culture as a global phenomenon has, so far, defied universal classification or analysis within historical musicology. I hope to address this lacuna in part, and also to demonstrate that my choice of case study today is by no means merely a detailed elaboration on what might be perceived as a relatively peripheral area of global musical practice. It may, rather, represent a theoretical paradigm for extra-European music history; in certain ways it also exposes the means by which the frontiers of historical musicology can be extended to accommodate past musical cultures which have arisen from the colonial experience. The Spanish city of Manila, founded in 1571, was dubbed the ‘Rome of the East’ and was the religious, governmental and educational capital of the Philippine Islands until its complete destruction by Allied bombs dislodging Japanese forces in 1945. A meeting place of cultures, it was arguably the most important European settlement in East and Southeast Asia, and also one of the most multicultural. In treating early modern Manila and the Philippines as a case study of a colonial musical culture, I wish to address four main points: 1. the importation of European institutions and musical traditions; 2. musical ethnography; 3. transculturation in music; and 4. syncretism of genres.

This talk is part of the World History Workshop series.

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