Drew Edward Davis of Northwestern University to present lecture on Villancicos












Drew Edward Davies (Northwestern University):

“Africa and Africans in 17th-Century Christmas Villancicos”

Friday, January 22, 3:30-5 PM, College of Musical Arts, 1002

Abstract: Relationships among music, race, and representation count among the most difficult issues facing the interpretation of villancicos from seventeenth-century New Spain, especially those for the Christmas season that tend to rhetorically express concepts of inversion through popularizing tropes drawn from the Spanish theater. Some Christmas villancicos portray stereotyped African personages who travel in groups to Bethlehem to adore the Christ child through dance and song. Such pieces tend to feature rhythms patterns seemingly evocative of popular musics and have been categorized into a subgenre referred to as the negrilla, guineo or villanccio de negro.

For decades, scholars following the Stevenson tradition have interpreted such villancicos as indicative of “ethnological impulses” or retentions of African musical practices. In fact, members of the performance community tend to assume a literal and direct relationship between villancicos de negro and the musical practices of enslaved or free African populations in New Spain, even though such pieces were composed specifically for cathedral ritual. However, this paper argues that villancicos de negro work at the allegorical rather than literal level and derive from contemporaneous European modes of representation, including the theater and visual art. They derive from the theatrical tradition of Lope de Vega, dramatize scenes from contemporaneous religious visual art, and construct simplified, stereotyped ethnic Others in order to underscore the themes of the universal church.

Drew Edward Davies, a music historian specializing in the Spanish world of the sixteenth through early nineteenth centuries, is Associate Professor of Musicology and Director of Graduate Music Studies at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, as well as Academic Coordinator of the Seminario de Música en la Nueva España y el México Independiente in Mexico City.

For further information contact Dr. Arne Spohr (aspohr@bgsu.edu)