Disciplining the popular : new institutions for Argentine music education as cultural systems
O'Brien, Michael Seamus, 1978-
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This dissertation focuses on a recent but growing movement in Argentina, state-sponsored formal institutions of popular music education. The musics taught in these schools – tango, jazz, and Argentine folk idioms – have historically been excluded from the country’s formal music education systems. Recent moves to standardize and legitimize these musics in this new institutional context raise questions of canon formation, pedagogical praxis, aesthetics and musical meaning that have implications far beyond the classrooms where they are implemented. I examine two of these schools based in and around the capital city of Buenos Aires: the Escuela de Música Popular de Avellaneda, and the Tango and Folklore department of the Conservatorio Superior de Música “Manuel de Falla.” I adopt an ethnographic approach that considers broad structural and policy issues of power distribution, state intervention, and cultural nationalism. I also examine how these structures play out in discourse and practice within and beyond the classroom, shaped by and in turn shaping students’ and teachers’ aesthetics, politics, and subject positions. I then analyze the output of several musical groups composed of current students and recent graduates of these programs, exploring the notion of an emerging institutional aesthetic and the extent to which these institutions act as homogenizing influences or engender creative divergence. Finally, applying Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of a field of cultural production, I question the extent to which this new “música popular” is truly popular, ultimately arguing that it occupies a sort of third space between mass culture and high culture, replicating some avant-garde assumptions about the role of art as anti-commercial, yet simultaneously embracing a symbolic economy that valorizes populist and subaltern identities and ideologies.