Elsy M. Gallardo-Díaz
Date of Award
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
School of Music
Robert D. McCashin
Although the music of Silvestre Revueltas has often been categorized as merely Mexicanist, this paper aims to demonstrate that not all of his music falls squarely within that classification. Among his brief but significant artistic output, three pieces for voice and small instrumental ensemble incorporate Afro-Caribbean stylistic elements drawn from popular and religious Afro-Cuban music. Composed in early 1937, Caminando, No sé que piensas tú soldado, and Sensemayá were based on poems by the Cuban Nicolás Guillén, the foremost representative of Afrocubanismo and, like Revueltas, an ardent believer in art as a tool for political protest and for social transformation. In this document, I argue that in using Afro-Caribbean stylistic elements in these works, Revueltas’ motivation was political rather than picturesque or exoticist, and that the stylistic elements incorporated in the three pieces are used as topics, thus alluding to specific social, cultural, and political contexts.
In this paper I explore the political ideals of Revueltas and the role of the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists as a platform for an international group of intellectuals and artists opposing war, fascism, and imperialism; the political and social climate in Cuba that so decisively informed the content of Guillén’s poems; the origins, development, and characteristics of the Cuban son, the genre that most influenced Guillén’s revolutionary poetry; and the role of Afro-Cuban religious rituals and music —including its direct connection with popular music— as a source of inspiration for Guillén. Additionally, I identify specific Afro-Caribbean stylistic elements in Revueltas’ three works and trace them back to the Cuban son, the rumba, and ritual/carnival Afro-Cuban music. Then, within the framework of topic theory, I demonstrate how said elements reinforce the meaning of the poems: the protest against the oppression and exploitation of blacks and mulattoes in Cuba and the Caribbean, and the pursuit of permanent freedom and justice.
Gallardo-Diaz, Elsy M., "Afro-Caribbean Stylistic Elements as Topics in the Music of Silvestre Revueltas: Conveying a Political Discourse in Caminando, No sé por qué piensas tú, and Sensemayá" (2016). Dissertations. 129.