Imposing Harmony: Music and Society in Colonial Cuzco

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Imposing Harmony is a groundbreaking analysis of the role of music and musicians in the social and political life of colonial Cuzco. Challenging musicology’s cathedral-centered approach to the history of music in colonial Latin America, Geoffrey Baker demonstrates that rather than being dominated by the cathedral, Cuzco’s musical culture was remarkably decentralized. He shows that institutions such as parish churches and monasteries employed indigenous professional musicians, rivaling Cuzco Cathedral in the scale and frequency of the musical performances they staged.

Building on recent scholarship by social historians and urban musicologists and drawing on extensive archival research, Baker highlights European music as a significant vehicle for reproducing and contesting power relations in Cuzco. He examines how Andean communities embraced European music, creating an extraordinary cultural florescence, at the same time that Spanish missionaries used the music as a mechanism of colonialization and control. Uncovering a musical life of considerable and unexpected richness throughout the diocese of Cuzco, Baker describes a musical culture sustained by both Hispanic institutional patrons and the upper strata of indigenous society. Mastery of European music enabled elite Andeans to consolidate their position within the colonial social hierarchy. Indigenous professional musicians distinguished themselves by fulfilling important functions in colonial society, acting as educators, religious leaders, and mediators between the Catholic Church and indigenous communities.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This is an excellent book that discusses critical issues central to our understanding of colonial music and society in an original manner and whose approach, spread over various disciplines, significantly widens the perspectives of the studies published to date. [Baker’s] reconsideration of traditional methods and sources and his open invitation to create a distinctively Latin American historical musicology less dependent on European models represent a considerable challenge for scholars of music in the New World.” - Javier Marín-López, Early Music History

“[T]his book is an invaluable addition to the study of Latin America and should be a fine companion for undergraduate and graduate music research.” - Matthew J. Forss, Canadian Journal of History

“Geoffrey Baker's Imposing Harmony: Music and Society in Colonial Cuzco is an outstanding contribution to both Andean studies and colonial musicology, and it should be read by anyone with an interest in either field.“ - Joshua Tucker, Latin American Music Review

“Geoffrey Baker presents a profound analysis of the fascinating way in which old polyphony made its entry into the New World. Written in a very lively and eloquent style, it is a great read, also for someone who is not a historian and was not even aware of urban musicology as subdiscipline. . . . There are few occasions in which I have read a scholarly book with so much joy.” - Barbara Hogenboom, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“Thoroughly researched, theoretically informed, and clearly written, this book is a worthy addition to the historiography of Latin American music.” - John Charles Chasteen, American Historical Review

“What we learn in the end from Baker’s book is not only the richness of colonial Cuzco’s musical scene but also how little we know about most other cities in Latin America during their long, complex colonial eras and, more surprisingly, most cities in Spain. . . . His book demonstrates that research on colonial music benefits from many trends in research, just as we all benefit from going back to the archives—not just the local cathedral—with a long list of new questions. I hope Baker’s work will inspire many authors who will produce similar studies on other cities.” - Grayson Wagstaff, Journal of the American Musicological Society

“Decentering understanding of the history of music in colonial Cuzco, Geoffrey Baker demonstrates the importance of moving away from the cathedral-centered analyses of the period’s musical culture. Most memorably, he significantly deepens insight into the making of Andean social distinction by bringing to the fore the busy activity of Andean musicians not based in, trained by, or dependent on the Cuzco Cathedral at all.”—Kathryn Burns, author of Colonial Habits: Convents and the Spiritual Economy of Cuzco, Peru

“Geoffrey Baker examines the musical culture—the soundscape—of colonial Cuzco, in all its complexity. He questions traditional scholarship on the music of Cuzco (and elsewhere in Latin America, for that matter) in which the cathedral, with its strongly Hispanic traditions, is understood as the center and focus of viceregal musical culture. In a city that was inhabited by a strong majority of indigenous descent, focus on a cathedral-centered organization rehearses a colonialist perspective. Baker successfully challenges it.”—Carolyn Dean, author of Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ: Corpus Christi in Colonial Cuzco, Peru

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822341604
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,350,788
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Baker is a Lecturer in the Department of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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Read an Excerpt

Imposing Harmony

By Geoffrey Baker


Copyright © 2008 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4160-4

Chapter One

The Urban Soundscape

Every city and kingdom is like a fine, beautiful harmony and musical song, whose voices, diverse though they may be, are nevertheless brought to consonance and unity through the providence and art of the good singer.-Rodrigo Sánchez de Arévalo, Suma de la política, c.1454

Kublai reflected on the invisible order that sustains cities, on the rules that decreed how they rise, take shape and prosper, adapting themselves to the seasons, and then how they sadden and fall into ruins. At times he thought he was on the verge of discovering a coherent, harmonious system underlying the infinite deformities and discords.-Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

The visit of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo to Cuzco in 1571 was a momentous event in the history of the city, and indeed of the viceroyalty as a whole. Though the Spanish under Hernando Pizarro had conquered the city in 1533, the next four decades were characterized by strife and political upheaval, rebellions and civil war. The Spanish conquerors fought among themselves, and several leaders were killed by their fellow countrymen. Diego de Almagro, returning from an unsuccessful attempt to subdue Chile, was defeated and executed not far from Cuzco. The Inkas, however, were also divided. Some remained in Cuzco and became vital allies of the Spaniards, while others retreated to the jungle near Vilcabamba, north of the city, where they continued to resist the disunited Spanish factions. These were dangerous and uncertain times: the first bishop of Cuzco, fray Vicente Valverde, was killed by native warriors on a missionary excursion. Viceroy Toledo, the king's supreme representative in Peru, had been appointed three years earlier, in 1568, to bring order to the viceroyalty. He had come to Cuzco to inspect his domain and to impose good government on the Spanish colonists in the former Inka capital, though he ended up directing the campaign to defeat the last Inka rebel, Túpac Amaru.

The city council was given ample warning of the arrival of the viceroy, whom it was keen to impress. When Toledo drew near to Cuzco, he was installed for the night in a house that the council had built just outside the city. The following day, he was taken up to a lookout constructed with a view down onto the plain below. First, a hundred Spanish horsemen appeared to the sound of trumpets and drums and enacted a mock cavalry battle under the gaze of the viceroy. They then made way for a display by Andean groups, who were just as keen to show their welcome as the Spaniards: forty years after the conquest, native leaders understood the importance of good political relations with the colonial authorities, though such performances of power were also vital to maintaining their status in the eyes of their own communities. They poured down the hillside opposite the viewpoint in great numbers, the Inka leaders first and their subjects from all four suyos, or quarters of the realm, behind them, each ethnic group carrying its flag and many multi-colored banners. Most wore breastplates of gold or silver, and many were decked in feathers, the colors and metals glinting in the sunlight. Each suyo then came before the viceroy and welcomed him according to its own custom, with its own distinctive dance. When the performances had finished, Toledo thanked the groups on behalf of the king for their display of allegiance to the crown.

The day of the official entry into the city dawned fine. The viceroy was again met by crowds of Andeans, who had constructed arches of many-colored flowers, birds, and animals over the road. So impressed was the eyewitness who recorded events by this Andean welcome that he added, "It should be noted that the city which can put on the finest display of these handicrafts is that which has the most Indians; and as they are so innumerable in this city, what a show they put on, with the different dances and invenciones [performances] that they brought out and the fine clothing in which the kurakas [native leaders] and principales [secondary Andean nobles] were attired." Toledo took an oath at an arch situated on the city limits, and then formally entered Cuzco. "The music of minstrels, trumpets, and other instruments that sounded as the gates were opened cannot be described," wrote the eyewitness. The viceroy was met by eight hundred finely dressed soldiers, and made his way into the city through streets decked with tapestries, through throngs of Andeans so thick that he could barely pass. Arriving finally at the main square and the cathedral, he opted to take a turn around the plaza, dong his hat to the ladies who filled the windows and balconies. As he made his way back to the steps of the church, the chapter and canons came to meet him-the see was vacant at this time-and accompanied him inside to hear "a solemn mass with great music and clamor of voices, both of which are highly regarded in this holy church." Toledo had arrived at the cathedral of the oldest diocese in Peru, overlooking the Plaza de Armas at the heart of Cuzco (Torres de Mendoza 1867, 251-55).

The Plaza de Armas, the physical and symbolic center of Cuzco, had been fashioned by the Spaniards out of the haucaypata-roughly one-third of the great civic square of the Inkas-and had thus been the scene of magnificent religious and political rituals since long before the Europeans' arrival in 1533. Inka Cuzco has been described as more of a ceremonial center than a city (Rowe 1967), and its layout differed substantially from European cities, for example in the dedication of extremely large spaces not only to ceremonies but also to cultivation (Viñuales 2004). In socio-spatial terms, Inka Cuzco was organized according to kinship principles and thus more closely resembled traditional village structures found in other parts of South America than European cities (Morse 1972, 370). After their military victory in 1533, the Spaniards therefore faced the dual task of urbanizing and Hispanicizing Cuzco. Their most obvious tool was architecture, and they constructed Spanish-style churches and municipal buildings on the exposed foundations of Inka temples and palaces in what was a highly visible show of domination. The transformation of the heart of the Inka center through the reshaping of the central plaza was of crucial symbolic importance to the colonial enterprise: Cuzco's magistrate, Polo de Ondegardo, saw this display of architectural power as the key to converting and acculturating not just Cuzco but the whole of the Andean region (Dean 1999, 30-31). The huge Inka plaza was carved up accordingly. The Watanay River, which divided the haucaypata from the larger section known as the kusipata, was filled in and houses built in its place, separating the colonial Plaza de Armas from the Plaza del Regocijo, as the kusipata was renamed. The Plaza del Regocijo was to be overlooked by the chambers of the colonial city council and thus to become the site of important civic ceremonies. The Plaza de Armas, meanwhile, was eventually chosen in 1552 as the permanent site for the cathedral, which was built on top of the palace of the Inka Viracocha in a final, graphic demonstration of the triumph of Spanish sacred power.

Acts of structural domination alone were not enough, however, to ensure total colonization of place, as the city plan produced by the early-seventeenth-century Andean chronicler Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala ([1615] 1980, 970) reveals (fig. 1). This map of Cuzco shows "an almost untouched Inka city" full of pre-Hispanic sacred space, even though it was drawn some eighty years after the Spanish occupation (Locke 2001, 150). Inka shrines and landmarks, many noted with their Quechua names, are still prominent, with the haucaypata and kusipata labeled as such rather than as Spanish plazas, underlining that the contours and meanings of urban spaces were resistant to change despite the colonists' architectural program. Yet the Spanish mission to refashion Cuzco as a colonial city was not, of course, pursued solely at a spatial level: it was also fundamentally a cultural and ritual reinvention of Inka Cuzco, a process that began with the formal act of the city's foundation by Francisco Pizarro on 23 March 1534, marking a new, Hispanic beginning. Viceroy Toledo's turn around the Plaza de Armas in 1571 before he entered the cathedral might have been motivated primarily by flirtatiousness, but it could also be seen as a performance full of symbolic resonance for the inhabitants of Cuzco, his route tracing out the recent conversion of the key ceremonial space of the haucaypata.

The cultural construction of the Latin American city is the focus of Ángel Rama's influential work The Lettered City (1996), which explores the idea that urbanization and civilization in colonial Latin America-two processes inextricably linked, even on a semantic level (Waisman 2005)-entailed a transformation that was effected not only through architecture but also through the power of the written word. Rama (1996, 27) describes the Latin American city as two superimposed grids: a physical plane and a symbolic plane "that organizes and interprets the former ..., rendering the city meaningful as an idealized order." He sees "the two cities-the real one and the ideal one-as entities quite distinct yet also inescapably joined. One could not exist without the other." Revealing how the city is not simply created out of stones but fleshed out by words and concepts, Rama emphasizes the role of wordsmiths (letrados) in the creation of "the lettered city" of colonial Latin America. Yet music, sound, and performance, I would argue, were equally integral to this process of colonization and urbanization in the New World, with the ordering of the city (so important to colonial letrados, and a focus of Rama's argument) conceived and enacted not only in verbal but also in sonic terms, exemplified by the concept and practice of harmony. European music, propagated by Spanish missionaries from the earliest years of the conquest of Peru, served both as a tool and as a metaphor for the harmonization of social forces. The imposition of musical organizational structures and the inculcation of European musical skills-especially harmony, previously unknown in the Andes-formed part of wider efforts to create temporal, spatial, and social order in the new colonial towns being founded across the viceroyalty (Waisman 2005), but they also contributed to the process of urban transformation and redefinition in established centers such as Cuzco. While the attention of urban historians has focused on the verbal, visual, and olfactory dimensions of the city (e.g., Rama 1996; Dean 1999; Kinsbruner 2005), there is a strong case for considering the intersection of sound, urban form, and colonial power-la ciudad sonora, or "sonorous city," as it might be termed after Rama.

The arrival of Viceroy Toledo in Cuzco in 1571 was heralded by Andean music and dance, minstrels and loud instruments, and sacred music in the cathedral. Indigenous cultural displays gave way to European sounds as the city gates were opened and the viceroy crossed the symbolic threshold from the Andean countryside into the Hispanic city. Three kinds of music, of increasing sophistication from a European perspective, announced the three stages of the entry: standing outside the city, crossing the boundary from barbaric (if colorful) campo to civilized ciudad, and arriving at the Hispanic heart of Cuzco. The deployment of musical resources was therefore highly figurative, and the progression underlined the urban/rural dichotomy that was central to the discourse and identity of colonial letrados (Rama 1996). This account of a dynamic and carefully planned civic event exemplifies the ways in which music and sound-and their associated discourses-were implicated and employed in the cultural construction of urban identity and of the colonial city itself, offering a glimpse of the close relationship between sound and urbanism in the early modern Hispanic world.

Urbanism, harmony, and order

Urbanization lay at the heart of the Spanish conquest of the New World: "Of all the peoples that Rome had brought within its domain, the Iberians most closely imitated their conquerors in the significance they assigned to the city. In turn, Iberians reconstituted this prominence in the Indies, heightening it, in fact, in all matters social and cultural" (Szuchman 1996, 1). The Spaniards saw the Americas as a virgin territory onto which they might project their dreams and aspirations; a backward, natural, chaotic place, it demanded the rational organization characteristic of the humanist intellect (Eaton 2002). After the early exploratory expeditions, settlers began to arrive, bringing with them an approach to town planning that was both informed by and designed to promote a highly structured, hierarchical worldview. The famous grid plan, superimposed onto American population centers and empty spaces alike, represented "their sense of perfect order and the neat placement of people within a well-defined space" (Szuchman 1996, 5), its design symbolizing rational domination but also facilitating surveillance.

The physical concord of the European town plan was a spatial ideal created in the abstract, a bold attempt to construct a harmonious world from scratch and to harness urban design and architecture to the ideological subjugation of native populations (Fraser 1990; Rama 1996; Eaton 2002). In this sense the New World city was a coercive project as much as a physical location, the projection of an idealized, hoped-for future rather than the accumulation of past achievements that was the medieval European city, or indeed Inka Cuzco. Of course, not all these hopes were realized: the late-sixteenth-century "plan" of Cuzco, which circulated widely in Europe in the first volume of Braun and Hogenberg's Civitates orbis terrarum (1572), bore no relation to the way that the city actually appeared (fig. 2). It was, rather, an "iconic view" (Kagan with Marías 2000, 7) depicting a concept of the city that arguably reflects a will to order more than any physical reality, and its spare, geometrical appearance contrasts sharply with the dense, lived-in image by Guaman Poma de Ayala.

If its theoretical perfection was not always reflected in practice, the harmonious city plan was nevertheless emblematic of a Spanish colonial ideology that was urban in focus and in which the process of urbanization was key. The Spanish colonists in the New World drew on the Roman tradition of the city as a central tool of empire-one which the Spaniards had learned to use in the Iberian Peninsula through the experience of the reconquista of the Moors-but also on the Aquinian notion of the city as the repository of Christian virtue and piety and thus the ideal instrument of evangelization (Kagan with Marías 2000). These various impulses came together in the forcible resettlement of native American peoples into new towns, or reducciones, a policy that was regarded as an essential first step in converting them to the faith and ridding the land of disorder and idolatry. The city acquired, in short, a civilizing mission. At the heart of this mission was the imposition of policía, a complex term implying good government, law, order, peace, morality, and religion-all of which were seen as characteristic benefits of urban life. Policía had an architectural face, revealed in the many colonial prescriptions about town planning, but it could also, arguably, be expressed in (and implemented through) the sound and concept of harmony, a potent symbol of both order and the civilizing, Christianizing mission of the colonial church.


Excerpted from Imposing Harmony by Geoffrey Baker Copyright © 2008 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


ONE The Urban Soundscape....................17
TWO The Cathedral and the Seminary of San Antonio Abad....................70
THREE Convents and Monasteries....................111
FOUR The Urban Parishes....................149
FIVE The Rural Doctrinas de Indios....................191
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