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Representing the Good NeighborMusic, Difference, and the Pan American Dream$
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Carol A. Hess

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199919994

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199919994.001.0001

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Carlos Chávez and Ur-Classicism

Carlos Chávez and Ur-Classicism

(p.25) 2 Carlos Chávez and Ur-Classicism
Representing the Good Neighbor

Carol A. Hess

Oxford University Press

This chapter proposes that critics of music by the Mexican composer Carlos Chávez rejected difference and embraced sameness by classicizing the Indianist qualities of his works. Opposing Chávez’s style to Stravinskian neoclassicism, Paul Rosenfeld, Henry Cowell, and Aaron Copland effectively conceived of an “ur-classicism” unique to the Americas and invested with the universal authority of an ancient past. These critics echoed their counterparts in architecture, journalism, and anthropology who also extolled the Mexican Indian as having values commonly understood as classic (timelessness, transcendence, universal validity, restraint, organicism), as writings by the architect Robert Stacy Judd, the author Stuart Chase, and the anthropologists Edward Sapir and Ruth Benedict show. Some even dubbed the Aztecs and Mayans the ancient Greeks of the hemisphere, adopting a classicizing stance that defied the modernist ferment of 1920s New York and helped situate musical Pan Americanism in U.S. concert life.

Keywords:   Copland-Sessions concerts, Carlos Chávez in United States, primitivism, Paul Rosenfeld, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, “true classicism”, Mexican music, modernism, tabula rasa, ur-classicism

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