Festival Internacional de Música y Danza

Reidy - Research in Spain - CLACS at NYUI came to the Granada for the Festival Internacional de Música y Danza with an interest in the intersections of place, history and music in the region and in representations of the region – especially those presented by female singers and dancers who modeled myths of Southern Spain in popular urban entertainment for audiences across Europe and North America during the 19th and early 20th centuries. But I also came with the less grandiose short-term goal of doing preliminary historical and ethnographic research to prepare for my dissertation proposal. At just over three weeks duration, this trip is shorter than is ideal – especially given the task of beginning some painstaking archival work – but it has nonetheless been immensely fruitful and provocative thus far.

My time is governed largely by Granada’s work schedule, so I devote my mornings to archives until they close for siesta, take siesta hours for lunch and review of my research from the day, and then spend evenings at a Festival concert or, if scheduling permits, two. Initially, I planned to focus my historical work on the Archivo Manuel de Falla, where I worked for my first week, and then on the Archivo Historical Municipal. But after familiarizing myself with the research centers organized through the Universidad de Granada and Andalucían Library and Archive system, I discovered that the lesser known Museo Casa de los Tiros holds the strongest collection of material relating to the cultural life and urban history of pre-Civil War Granada. I have since been making the most of the Casa de los Tiros’s extensive book and newspaper archive, generous afternoon work hours, and infinitely helpful staff. I spend my weekends and stray daytime hours attending Festival events (including master-classes and discussion panels) and exploring Granada’s diverse districts (from the touristy medieval Albayzín to the working-class suburban Zaidín), cultural institutions (such as the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Fundación Euroarabe de Altos Estudios) and notable business establishments – particularly those recommended to me by archive functionaries.

For instance, one of my favorite finds this week was Bodega Castañeda – a bar off the main Plaza Nueva that is heavily styled as a late nineteenth-century café cantante, complete with musty old bottles, their yellowed labels, and iron-banded wine barrels. One of the archivists at the Museo Casa de los Tiros suggested that I visit the bar to see their collection of ephemera relating to popular Spanish performers of the period. After four incredible minutes soaking in walls decked with antique imagery ranging from 2-cent postcards to an original oil portrait of La Tortajada – the Granada-born star of Paris’s Folies Bergère who performed in St. Petersburg and Los Angeles but only once in her native country – I had more explicit data on Spanish dancing-girls than I had been able to uncover in four days of tedious archival work! While perhaps surprising, it is indicative of the “official” narrative of Granada which structures the archive and organizes its contents.

In Granada, I find my thoughts lingering over sounds and sights in unexpected consort with post-colonial anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj and German founder of Musickwissenschaft Guido Adler. In 1885, Guido Adler espoused a scientific musicology patterned upon the empirical and comparative methods then current in biology, paleography, geology and archaeology; in 2001, Nadia Abu El-Haj published a controversial critique of the deployment of archaeological practice in the construction and materialization the Israeli nation-state. Today, in Granada, both are particularly apt. For here, following the roads traced by the Festival Internacional de Música y Danza, visitors are engulfed by an official cultural discourse that maneuvers them into contemplation of a particular historical past through a strategically mapped and selectively sanitized material presence. This narrative draws them to the medieval Albayzín of restored Nasrid mansions and Barroque churches, blinding them to its history of vice and poverty with advertisements for the “rehabilitation of historical patrimony.” And it steers them away from the suburban districts of Zaidín, Chana or Ronda where migrant populations from Morocco, Senegal, Peru and Romania have gathered in search of work – much as rural, North African and American migrants crowded into urban Granada in the nineteenth century in the hopes of reaping the promises of industrialization.

I came to Granada armed with the two-pronged narrative of Guido Adler’s day: first that, while rich in the architectural bones of antiquarian civilizations, Spain had failed to erect its own musical monuments; and second, that in lieu of great civilization Spain was gifted with great spirit, evidenced in its musicality and penchant for dance. The later half of this narrative survives in the brightly colored images of dancing women and charging bulls that populate ubiquitous postcard racks – images now mass produced and unmoored from the nineteenth-century cultural life and labor from which they came. Like the ephemera on the walls of the Bodega Castañeda, they are mere ‘local color.’ The first half, however, appears to be curiously reinvented.

I was expecting to find some tale of Spanish or even Andalucían musicality echoed in the Festival. However, while foreigners to Andalucía certainly approach the few flamenco events at the Festival with this story (many if not most of whom are Spanish!), austere granadinos in attendance at the manifold concerts of court and ecclesiastic music from the Early Modern siglo de oro clearly have a different tale to tell. Picking apart the Festival Internacional de Música y Danza from within Granada, I am intrigued to find that the “Festival Internacional” of today is not a narrative of Spain, but of Andalucía and the linguistic patrimony it shares with Latin America – against the linguistic hegemony of the Castilian center. And “Música y Danza” is not an appeal to musicality as a cultural habit or behavior, but an affirmation of the monumentality of Andalucían musical works. Thus, the “musical patrimony” is not the musicality or even monumentality of a Spanish patria, associated historically with Castile and Catholicism. It is a collection of monuments that comprise the colonial heritage of Andalucía in both Latin America and in Granada itself, a Monument to the patrimonio andaluz granadino.

In this post I have written liberally about music and history, but have only peripherally dealt with place and music. One of the features of the Festival Internacional is a partnership with eMultipoetry, a poetic-educational project of the European Union’s Grundtvig Programme, which pairs sound artists, who compose paisajes sonorous or ‘soundscapes,’ with poets, who write poetry in response to the recorded soundscape. The Granada Festival has included several performances of these collaborations in an attempt to develop an appreciation of the quotidian soundscape of the city as cultural patrimony, equal to that of conventional musical works. In my next post I will dwell in more detail on the sounds of the city and will share some bits of the many hours of recording that I have made in Granada during this trip.

Anna Reidy is a PhD Candidate in Music at NYU

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