I consider this blog post as an addendum to my previous discussion about audio recording preservation. Like that post, I will offer digital online resources that people can use to locate information about Latin American and Caribbean music. With that said, let me begin by referring once again to one of the resources that I talked about last week: the “Audio Recordings” section of the Archivo Virtual Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP). This audio archive features digitized recordings of music by Puerto Rican composers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The segment on nineteenth-century classical music concentrates on danzas from the Romantic era by Manuel Gregorio Tavárez (1843-1883), Juan Morel Campos (1857-1896), and many others. The section dedicated to twentieth-century Puerto Rican classical music features recordings of works by composers like Hector Campos Parsi (1922-1998), Rafael Aponte Ledée (b. 1937), and Ernesto Cordero (b. 1946).
This is not to say that this archive is without problems. I mentioned last week that it does not contain contemporary popular music from the twenty-first century. Perhaps, the same can be said about its selection of contemporary classical music. To my knowledge, I was unable to locate mainland U.S.-based composers from the Puerto Rican diaspora, as well as Afro-Puerto Rican, female, and LGBTQIA composers. In this era, proper representation from these groups is important now more than ever.
In terms of classical music ensembles, the Unitas Ensemble focuses specifically on promoting classical music by Latin American and Caribbean composers. Based in Boston and directed by Lina Gonzalez-Granados, this group specializes in performing pieces by both deceased and living composers from international and stateside Latin American and Hispanophone Caribbean communities. The ensemble also commissions new pieces by Latin American and Caribbean composers to expand and enhance the classical music repertoire. Many of their performances can be accessed through social media.
While this blog post functions mainly to help musicians based in the United States in terms of Latin American musical representation, I am aware that some Latin American composers have encountered backlash for their work. Miguel del Águila (the current Composer in Residence for the Orchestra of the Americas) notes that people like the Argentine tango composer Astor Piazolla (1921-1992) were often shunned in their home country for experimenting too much with traditional or popular music genres, while this same experimentation has often been appreciated elsewhere (see latest program from Unitas Ensemble). The problem of underrepresentation, then, must not be perceived as strictly U.S.-centric, but global. In other words, both geographical regions must do their part to accurately and fairly demonstrate works from past and present Latin American composers.