Puerto Rican Art Song Project
Talk about Hispanic American literature and any avid reader around the world will tell you about Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, Julio Cortázar, Mario Vargas Llosa, Juan Rulfo and Ernesto Sábato. A poetry enthusiast might mention Pablo Neruda, Rubén Darío, Jorge Luis Borges... If you talk about art, you are certain to run into Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and when you bring up classical music, you may end up debating whether Pablo Casals could be claimed by Puerto Rico. Someone may mention Heitor Villa Lobos (Latin, but not Hispanic) and perhaps an opera connoisseur or film fan may bring up the late Daniel Catán.
To say that the Hispanic American world is underrepresented in the classical music international scene would be a huge understatement. But what is more interesting to me personally is how underrepresented my country, Puerto Rico, is, even within the Hispanic and Latin artistic circles.
García Márquez and Isabel Allende are wonderfully flavorful authors. They are the little piece of somewhat home that I can share with my German-, French-, Dutch-, Whatever-speaking friends. But I want to share René Marqués. I want his plays, stories and novels to be translated and published in all sorts of languages around the world. I want the world to know Rosario Ferré. Everyone knows the political writings of Che Guevara. I want the revolutionary poems of José de Diego, the simple-life and social commentary stories of Abelardo Díaz Alfaro and Luis Lloréns Torres. I want to present the feminist poetry of Julia de Burgos. I want online lists of rococo artists to contain a mention of José Campeche. I want online lists of Latin American artists to contain more than a handful of Puerto Ricans when other countries boast dozens of names.
The time has come for Intersectionalism©: n. the art and process through which ideas and concepts are transmitted beyond the natural boundaries of the groups who experience and develop them, making use of intersections at tangential points as portals for broader dissemination.
The world at large is currently in a special time of social shifts. It is an exciting moment full of potential in which new tendencies can become new standards: the Women’s Movements, with their marches, their #metoo and their #timesup; the fight for the voice and rights of people of color and a world of inclusion, with its #BLM, and its Dreamers and #defendDACA in the US; the struggle against violence, with its #marchforourlives; and the political upheaval in the relationship between the US and Puerto Rico, following the implementation of PROMESA, the US’ response after hurricane Maria, the #prstrong efforts, and the infamous paper towels.
If Maria left behind one good consequence, it is that our semi-erasure, due to a combination of Puerto Rico's literal insular hurdles and its figurative insularity brought about by its never-ending colonial history, has been stalled. It's a great gain not only for us, but for the world. A time to (re)discover our literature, our music, our history, culture and identity. An opportunity to strengthen humanity, which is kept alive through diversity.
Pianist and friend Nathaniel LaNasa and I launched the first recital for the Puerto Rican Art Song Project in the fall of 2016 at Nancy Manocherian's the cell in Midtown, Manhattan, featuring compositions by Jack Délano, Narciso Figueroa, Noel Allende Goitía and Ernesto Cordero. We exposed one classical music audience to a new subcategory of art song in an informal, chat-laced program that included a presentation of beautiful art work and text translations, as well as spoken facts about the historical context of the compositions. Since then, we have presented another entirely Puerto Rican program, and a couple of themed Liederabende (traditional song recitals) with Puerto Rican repertoire programmed within the evening.
Join us as Nathaniel and I keep exploring this incredibly diverse and colorful repertoire, and let us know if you'd like a performance in your community.