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Copland in Argentina Pan Americanist Politics, Folklore, and the Crisis in Modern Music

Carol A. Hess
Journal of the American Musicological Society
Vol. 66, No. 1 (Spring 2013), pp. 191-250
DOI: 10.1525/jams.2013.66.1.191
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/jams.2013.66.1.191
Page Count: 60
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Copland in Argentina


Abstract Perhaps more than any other US composer, Aaron Copland is associated with Pan Americanism, a contradictory and often unbalanced set of practices promoting North-South economic and affective ties since the nineteenth century. Copland visited Latin America on behalf of the US government four times over the course of his career. He also befriended and taught Latin American composers, wrote about Latin American music, and composed several Latin-American—themed works, including the well-known El salón México. Focusing on one such encounter—Copland's three visits to Argentina (1941, 1947, 1963)—this article examines in detail Latin American opinion on Copland's cultural diplomacy, thus challenging the prevalent one-sided and largely US perspective. My analysis of these Spanish-language sources yields new biographical data on Copland while questioning recent assessments of his Latin American experience. I also illuminate the composer's conflicted approach to modernism, intimately connected to his desire to communicate with a broad public and to assert national identity. The crisis of modernism not only played itself out in some surprising ways in Argentina but also informed Copland's profoundly antimodernist vision of Latin American music, one rooted in essentialism and folkloric nationalism and which ultimately prevailed in the United States throughout the late twentieth century.

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