Juan Batista Plaza and Musical Nationalism in Venezuela


Juan Batista Plaza and Musical Nationalism in Venezuela
Marie Elizabeth Labonville
2007, Indiana University Press
322 pages

THIS IS A groundbreaking – and refreshing – piece of scholarship that is welcome not only as an original work of history but also for drawing attention to a little-known facet of cultural development in Venezuela. A tradition of excellence, an unparalleled musical infrastructure and thoughtful state support for the arts has given Venezuelan performers and composers global prominence, a fact often ignored by those contemporary critics of the country and its leadership. Marie Elizabeth Labonville’s brilliant work is also important for exploring the relationship between music and nationalism – a key but greatly neglected theme in understanding the consolidation of national identity in Venezuela and Latin America more generally. Music, like art, can both express and shape national sentiment, and plays an important role in the inventive cultural processes upon which the political ideology of nationalism is often founded. This is the first English-language study of Juan Batista Plaza (1898-1965), one of the most important musicians in the history of Venezuela and a key figure in the development of those musical institutions in his native country that have subsequently propelled his compatriots on to the world musical stage. This title is, quite simply, music to the ears. – GO’T