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Interview with David Garcia: Co-Winner of the SEM 2018 Bruno Nettl Award

Monday, October 14, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Stephen Stuempfle
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Interview with David Garcia:
Co-Winner of the SEM 2018 Bruno Nettl Award

By Jesse Fivecoate, Indiana University Bloomington



David Garcia, Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was a co-winner of the SEM 2018 Bruno Nettl Prize for Listening for Africa: Freedom, Modernity, and the Logic of Black Music’s African Origins (Duke University Press, 2017). He also received an Honorable Mention for the 2018 Alan Merriam Prize for the same work. The Nettl Prize is awarded each year to recognize an outstanding publication contributing to or dealing with the history of the field of ethnomusicology, broadly defined, or with the general character, problems, and methods of ethnomusicology.



Garcia found the discipline of ethnomusicology late in his undergraduate training in music composition at California State University, Long Beach. His interests at the time were tied mostly to Andean music, which informed his own compositions. One of his professors noticed this source of inspiration and mentioned a field that he had not heard of before—ethnomusicology. It was this conversation that later led him to pursue ethnomusicological studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Garcia believes that ethnomusicology allows opportunities for understanding music-making and meaning in any context. Sometimes he gets the impression that his work goes beyond the traditional boundaries of ethnomusicology in that he relies heavily on archival sources. Listening for Africa, for example, is completely based on archival data, which he sees as a necessary part of ethnographic understanding. The project grew out of his first book: Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music (Temple University Press, 2006). Returning to the same time period (1930s–1950s), he wanted to reexamine questions of race in the broader context of the United States and Latin America. He originally conceptualized the project as centering on mambo, but soon realized larger connections outside of this particular form.

Garcia says that his new book is about the discourse of the African origins of Black music and about why this idea was important at a particular historical moment in Cuba and the United States and in the context of transnational politics generated by anti-colonial movements in Africa. He adds that this past is fundamental to understanding the present moment.

Garcia says that the award for his book is an honor, especially since he knows Professor Nettl through his scholarship and has fond memories of seeing him at SEM Annual Meetings. He sees his own scholarship as a part of the community built by colleagues and friends in providing new understandings of music in the world.


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