Link to home page

Musicalia

(Havana, 1928-1932, 1940-1946)

Prepared by Gabriel Caballero
Introduction by Ana Uribe Law
Online only (2022)

Publication in the RIPM Index forthcoming in July 2022.

The Cuban music journal Musicalia [RIPM code MLA] was published in two series, 1928 to 1932 and 1940 to 1946, under the direction of María Muñoz de Quevedo. Issues were published bimonthly and formatted as single column articles, with thirty to forty pages per issue. Each issue contains articles alongside reviews of concerts, recitals, books, and recordings. A musical supplement, included with various issues, promoted the music of various Cuban composers such as Alejandro García Caturla and Amadeo Roldán alongside contemporary European composers. The purpose of the journal, stated in the first issue of 1928, was to create fidelity within early twentieth century music while also looking into the future of music, thus considering music from the past to be a “living art with which there is no need to adopt any type of fetishistic attitude but rather a criterion to review values.”[1]

The gap in publication between 1932 and 1940 owed to economic and political turmoil in Cuba, and is addressed in the resumption issue of November-December 1940. The economic crisis, alongside a much-elevated cost of printing, frustrated any cultural growth, but the new beginning of the journal in 1940 signaled a restored interest to promote and serve Cuban music culture: “with this flag in times of peace, in days of universal turbulence, Musicalia reappears.”[2] Overall, Musicalia aimed to acknowledge the musical and cultural boom that Cuba experienced during the early twentieth century while also contributing to the continuous study of Western art music, making it a significant journal to publicize the achievements and music of Cuban composers around the world.

María Muñoz de Quevedo (1886-1947), director and editor of Musicalia, was born in A Coruña, Spain and was also a choir director, teacher, researcher and musical critic. After moving to La Habana in 1919 with her husband, Antonio Quevedo, she mainly focused on teaching music, and became prominent proponent of the choral movement in Cuba. Both created Musicalia, with María taking the role of director while Antonio took a secondary role as editor for the first couple of years. The couple’s relationship with Cuban composers Amadeo Roldán and Alejandro García Caturla allowed for discourse on European art music within Cuba to grow and is reflected in certain collaborations for Musicalia. María Muñoz de Quevedo also founded the Sociedad Coral de La Habana in 1932, together with Antonio Quevedo, Alejandro García Caturla, and other artists, through which vocal music practice expanded from classical music into popular Cuban music and contemporary music, and was also a member of, and collaborator in, other choral groups.

María Muñoz de Quevedo’s articles in Musicalia are mainly focused on music education in Cuba and musical analyses of contemporary composers and musicians, such as García Caturla, Roldán and Sergei Prokofiev. The articles “Música para niños” (second issue of 1928) and “Una mujer” (issue no. 13-14 of 1930) stand out due to her continued advocacy for the improvement of musical education, as well as showcasing other women in the Cuban musical field, such as María Teresa García Montes de Giberga who was director of the Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical and its journal, Pro-Arte Musical. She also contributed extensively to the orchestral and concert review section of Musicalia.

Musicalia includes articles that discuss neoclassicism, modernism, popular music, and Cuban contemporary music. Afro-Cuban studies, music pedagogy in Cuba and analysis of Cuban composers are also prominent but analytical thinking of both historical and current musical occurrences, as well as views and perspectives on academic music within Latin America and Europe (particularly Spain), are also investigated. Among the main Latin American contributors to Musicalia are Antonio Quevedo, the Latin American novelist and musicologist Alejo Carpentier, the Cuban composer García Caturla, Mexican composers Carlos Chavez and Julián Carrillo, Cuban pianist and composer Joaquín Nin, Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz, and Cuban composer José Ardévol. Other main collaborators include American composer Henry Cowell, Spanish composer Alfredo Casella, and Spanish music historian and critic Adolfo Salazar.

Of particular interest are the various articles directly related to Cuban and Latin American music studies or written by renowned Cuban composers and musicologists, particularly on the subject of Afro-Cuban music, as it fast became a new perspective for investigations of folkloric music in Cuba. Fernando Ortiz, a pioneer of this movement in Cuba, offers an in-depth essay “El estudio de la música afrocubana” which looks into the ethnographic analysis of characteristics and aesthetics in Afro-Cuban music, spanning two issues (November-December 1928, No. 4 and January-February 1929, No. 5). Afro-Cuban music is also explored by García Caturla in his essay “Posibilidades sinfónicas de la música afrocubana” in light of art music and how certain characteristics and sounds can easily translate into symphonic and chamber music.

Musicalia’s first issue opens with Carpentier’s two-part  essay “El Neoclasicismo en la música contemporánea” which explores how contemporary composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Stravinsky and Hindemith approached expression without a Romantic era sensibility, in addition to a return to simplicity and order in their music. Joaquín Nin also delves into Classical and Romantic styles in his article “Puntos de vista clásicos y románticos o las querellas inútiles” discussing how the First World War brought on a new musical rebirth and speculates on how music might later depart from the norm. Other articles in Musicalia showcase new tonal possibilities that came about at the beginning of the twentieth century, such as the developing microtonal music theory of Julián Carrillo, “The Thirteenth Sound” or “Sonido 13.” The article “La revolución musical del Sonido 13” presents how this theory could be used to solve the imperfections in the classical music system from a new perspective.

Popular music in Latin America is also discussed in other articles. Indicative are two contributions by Carlos Chavez: “El fin exartístico en el arte popular,” on the philosophical and holistic understanding on the purpose of popular art; and “El arte popular y el no-popular,” on the difficulty in defining popular and non-popular art. Carlos T. Lerdo de Tejada looks at indigenous influences in modern Mexican aesthetics and music, in his article “Existe un arte americano?” while calling out American decorative art for being far too imitative of European styles, thus not entirely creating its own.

Of further note are some of the larger musical institutions whose concerts were reviewed throughout the run of Musicalia, including the Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical, which organized concerts of prominent figures as well as students and up-and-coming Cuban musicians; the Cuban National Symphonic Orchestra and Philharmonic Orchestra of La Habana; the Asociación Nacional de Profesores y Alumnos de Música; the Institución Hispanocubana de Cultura; the  Conservatorio Bach de La Habana; and the orchestra from the Conservatorio Falcón. Some internationally well-known performers which are reviewed in these sections include French soprano Ninon Vallin and violinists Jascha Heifetz and Mischa Elman. Cuban musicians are also reviewed, including pianists Diego Bonilla and Flora Mora, violinist Alberto Mateu, and soprano Emma Otero. 

This RIPM Index was produced from copies of the journal held by the New York Public Library, the Hermeroteca Municipal de Madrid, the Centro Nacional de Investigación, Documentación e Información Musical “Carlos Chávez” (Cenidim) in Mexico City, and a private collector. Indices for the final years, 1943-1944 and 1946 are forthcoming.

 

[1] “Considerará la música del pasado como un arte vivo, con el cual no hay por qué adoptar una actitud fetichista sino un criterio de revisión de valores.” Musicalia 1, no. 1 (May-June 1928): 1.

[2] “Con esta bandera de tiempos de paz, en días de universal turbulencia, reaparece Musicalia.” Musicalia, No. 1 (second series, November-December 1940): 1.

×