Music & Culture Lecture Series: Upcoming Lectures

Begun in 2002, MMaP’s Music & Culture Lecture Series presents cutting-edge research by leading scholars in ethnomusicology and allied disciplines. The talks, which are free and open to the public, take place in the MMaP Gallery on the second floor of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. Since February 2017, all of the talks in the series have been livestreamed on the MMaP YouTube channel, and videos of past lectures from the series can be viewed there as well.

2022–2023 Music and Culture Lecture Series

“Aging and Music”

Benjamin Zendel (Memorial University)

Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 7:30PM

Age-related decline in hearing abilities is one of the most common health issues reported by older adults. Such hearing decline often leads to a difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise.  Interestingly, lifelong musicians exhibit slower rates of age-related decline on auditory processing tasks that rely on the brain, such as understanding speech when there is background noise. Longitudinal work, where music lessons were provided to older non-musicians, has shown that music training can be used to improve the ability to understand speech when there is background noise. Together, this suggests that music training improves central auditory processing abilities that tend to decline in older adults. Other lines of research have shown that the ability to perform music perception tasks, such as identifying an out-of-tune note, synchronizing with a rhythm, or perceptually segregating two simultaneous melodies are relatively preserved in older adults, despite the fact that these tasks rely on both hearing and cognitive abilities that are known to decline with age.  This line of work suggests that music perception is a “cognitive strength” in older adults and suggests that music could be used as a “cognitive scaffold” to help rehabilitate other aspects of hearing or cognition that decline with age. Overall, these two lines of research highlight that central aspects of hearing are malleable and suggest that music or music training may be useful to improve hearing for older adults.

La batalla de Angostura (1847) and the Soundings of Manifest Destinies

David F. Garcia (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

 Tuesday, March 14, 2024, 7:30PM

Compared to the American Civil War, the United States’ intervention in Mexico from 1846 to 1848 occupies a marginal space in the collective historical memory of the country’s long 19th century. Music of that war is shrouded even more in a collective forgetting. Indeed, as Philip Bohlman has noted, “music functions powerfully to facilitate both remembering and forgetting,” and Mexican and US music of the Guerra de Intervención, as the war was known in Mexico at the time, serves as a particularly informative example of music functioning as a means of forgetting.

This lecture will explore music’s functions in narrating the war’s battles and in forgetting the war’s imperialist and racist underpinnings, at the time and since then. I focus on one battle, the crucial “Battle of Buena Vista,” known in Mexico as La batalla de Angostura, of February 22 and 23, 1847. US composers wrote and published piano pieces that narrated in music and text the events of this battle for domestic musicians and their listeners. In addition to the musical symbolism of warfare typical of mid-19th century piano salon music, several of these pieces also capture the sounds of the Mexican army’s military band, who reportedly played General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s favorite national music on the eve of what would become the war’s turning point.

In this talk, I draw from Mexican and US archival sources to argue that many destinies—Californio, Nuevo Mexicano, and Mexicano included—were and still are manifest in the sounds rendered in the battle music of the United States. I take this approach of excavating forgotten destinies to force back Mexican soundings into the historical spaces of the Mexican War, which as law historian Laura Gómez argues, was dominated in the Anglo-American imagination as a “moment of national triumph before the dark years of conflict over slavery that culminated in the Civil War.”

Come back to this page soon for announcements about more lectures in this year's series.