I felt Musicians in Transit was a slightly different approach to what we’ve read thus far. Instead of focusing on a main topic throughout a period of time, this book focused on specific musicians of a much broader period of time and scope. However, even given those differences, they were all Argentinian and they all used transnational influences to develop their music as well as make decisions about which music to play. The book also explores the ways in which the transnational musical landscape as well as politics influenced the success of the musicians and the decisions they made about what kind of music to make.
Piazzolla’s tango, for example, declined in popularity after the Argentinian uprising in 1969, so in an effort to regain his popularity, he experimented with rock inspiration from the UK and the US. This version of his music was popular in various places around the globe, but were very different from his original style of music. When the French began to criticize his dramatic change in style and accuse him of commercialization, he recognized that he could achieve success by returning to the tango (pp 97-100). To me, there seems to be a lot of transnationalism involved in just this one example. The demand of the local market forced Piazzolla to turn to the transnational market for style inspiration, but then it was another part of the transnational market that brought him back to his original music. I feel this is the case with all the artists in the book. The artists took transnational markets and transnational ideas and used them to mold their Argentinian music.
Musicians in Transit covers a common recurring theme in Transnationalism and globalism: the interactions in an unequal encounter between two parties (in this case the music industry and Argentina). It has been particularly interesting to see these interactions in the context of postcolonial american consumerism. In a globalized world where American and European artistic tastes seek the exotic while South Americans seek the modern, the give and take between these two camps creates situations that are the catalyst for artistic innovation and identity as well. Rather than a narrative that simply states that music in 20th century Argentina and Latin America was dictated by North American corporate interests of the music industry, there is still room for new art to flourish that isn’t “modern” or “exotic” but somewhere in between. This book gives agency to the actors that had to navigate in a transnational musical world.
The issue of identity is also a principal theme in the book. The stories told in the book tell about the consequences, good and bad, of how one chooses to identify themselves. The interesting part is that in this case it isn’t necessarily how one identifies just racially or nationally, but also music style wise.
I agree with Alan’s analysis of Musicians in Transit. The agency of individuals in Argentina is what stood out to me the most. In most of the books we have read this semester, we study transnationalism as an actor that inevitably integrates itself into the cultures studied. This book however, notes that transnationalism was not an invisible character acting upon Argentinians, rather it was acknowledged and used to expand the musical relevance in the globalizing world. In doing so, the argument that transnational integration is always evidence of cultural imperialism becomes void. Furthermore, the work speaks to the rise of consumerism as a global culture. This made me wonder whether the comprehension of global consumerism, and the actions taken to benefit from it, can signify the beginning of a form of globalization?
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