The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

EthNoise! Presents: Marysol Quevedo


Dear all,
Just a reminder that the final EthNoise! workshop for the winter quarter is TODAY, March 2nd from 5:00–6:30pm CT on Zoom. It is an honor to have Marysol Quevedo (University of Miami) discuss with us her work on Tania León and Afro-disaporic womanhood. We hope to see you there!
Dr. Marysol Quevedo
Assistant Professor of Musicology, University of Miami
“Afro-diasporic Womanhood in Tania León’s ‘Oh Yemanja’”
TODAY, March 2nd | 5:00–6:30 pm CT
Held on Zoom
Abstract: Cuban-born composer Tania León’s opera Scourge of Hyacinths (1994) received more than twenty performances and garnered the composer the BMW prize for best new opera at the Fourth Munich Biennale Festival. When Dawn Upshaw included its final aria, “Oh Yemanja (Mother’s Prayer),” in The World so Wide (1998), however, New York Times critic David Mermelstein found León’s aria an outlier within Upshaw’s album, opining “the soprano’s focused timbre conveys both maternal concern and a faintly exotic atmosphere.”
In this presentation I analyze “Oh Yemanja” as a synthesis of disparate traditions that, much like the composer herself, challenges categorization. Yemanja, an Orisha venerated in Afro-diasporic Yoruba religions, governs all forms of water and is worshipped as a nurturing mother figure by practitioners. In several accounts, León explains how the aria’s melody emerged from a prayer-song her own mother and grandmother sang. “Oh Yemanja” not only merges contemporary classical music traditions with Yoruba-derived melodies, it also combines aesthetic and spiritual practices that draw from and speak to Afro-diasporic understandings of womanhood, motherhood, sacrifice, and pain. In both text and music León offers a prayer to Yemanja that evokes the clear and nurturing waters through a hauntingly spiritual, liquid sonority. In contrast to Mermelstein’s superficial assessment of the female voice as “faintly exotic”–a dismissive appraisal historically levied at Afro-diasporic expressive practices–I contend that the aria can only be fully understood as a complex tapestry when one accounts for the frayed and mended identities of Afro-diasporic womanhood upon which it is based.
BiographyMarysol Quevedo, originally from Puerto Rico, is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of Miami. In her research and writing she focuses on art music in Cuba before and after the 1959 Revolution, and cultural diplomacy and art music networks during the Cold War. Quevedo holds a PhD in musicology from Indiana University. With a minor in ethnomusicology, she favors an interdisciplinary approach that combines the methods of both historical musicology and ethnographic fieldwork. Quevedo has presented her research at academic conferences around the world and is an active member of the American Musicological Society, the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the Society for American Music, currently serving as Director-at-large of the American Musicological Society’s Board of Directors.Quevedo has published essays in Experimentalisms in Practice: Perspectives from Latin America  and Experiencing Music and Visual Cultures and the journals Cuban Studies and Boletín Música, as well as entries for the Dictionary of American Music and Oxford Annotated BibliographiesHer book, Cuban Music Counterpoints: Vanguardia Musical in Global Networks, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.  

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