Popular Music & Culture in Latin America

This course is a survey of the popular and traditional musics from Latin America in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries within their cultural and geographical contexts. Over the semester you will become familiar with a repertoire of about 60 pieces of music, chosen to illustrate the various distinctive genres and styles that emerged from Latin America after almost 400 years of continuous change, such as the bolero, bossa nova, choro, Latin pop, merengue, nueva canción, reggaetón, rock en español, rumba, salsa, samba, son (Cuban and Mexican), tango, Tex-Mex conjunto, and others. We will also study the historical background and social functions of these pieces, as well as relevant composers, performers, and musical instruments of the region. This class will make extensive use of audio-visual materials.

By the end of the semester, you should be able to recognize and describe the most important genres and musical styles from Latin America practiced in this period, including the individual styles of a few composers, and to place composers, pieces, styles, and genres in an historical and geographical frame. In addition, you will be able to define and explain the importance of several terms and names used in relation to the repertoire.  Besides gaining this broad knowledge of the field, you will also undertake a research project on a specific topic related to the music from Latin America and appropriate to the objectives of the course, giving you an opportunity to explore in depth a subject of special interest to you.  Students will also write two concert reviews and will do a book review as an in-class oral presentation accompanied by a detailed handout.

The profile of the class is varied, since it permits the registration of music and non-music major undergraduates, as well as music major graduate students. Graduate students from non-music areas are also welcome, as long as their academic advisors approve their enrollment.  Graduate students will be expected to develop their personal but substantive research projects.  Previous musical background or knowledge of either Spanish or Portuguese is not required for this class.