University of Cambridge > > Faculty of Music - Lectures > From Valentino to Viagra: tango, representation and musical Latinamericanism

From Valentino to Viagra: tango, representation and musical Latinamericanism

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This paper offers a critical perspective on mainstream constructions of Latin American music using as a case study representations of tango dancing in mainstream film and advertising. Through an examination of an extensive corpus, it identifies a series of tropes of representation, which are tentatively labelled danger, erotic-exotic, irrationality, excess, and homogeneity. The trope of homogeneity is explored in depth, from Rex Ingram’s The four horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) to the TV commercial Tango (Viva Viagra!) of 2009. Using an interpretive framework derived from postcolonial theory, it proposes that Western discourses on Latin American music constitute a discursive formation —“musical Latinamericanism”—and makes a call for its scholarly study. Melanie Plesch is an Argentine musicologist now based at The University of Melbourne (Australia), where she is a Senior Lecturer in Musicology. Her work focuses on the intersections of music, politics and society, with particular emphasis on the relationship between music and the construction of national identity in Argentina. An award-winning lecturer, in 2014 she was recognised by the Australian government with a National Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning. She is currently a Research Visitor at the Faculty of Music, University of Oxford, in the context of the Balzan Programme in Musicology “Towards a Global History of Music” (dir. Reinhard Strohm).

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