Call for Book Chapter Proposals - “Early Music: Critical Perspectives from Latin America.”

Vernon Press invites scholars to submit chapter proposals for this proposed book, edited by Guillermo Luppi (Ph.D. Candidate in Musicology at Duke University).


Western music history has traditionally emphasized the musical culture of Northern Europe, centering its narratives on music that reflects ideals of progress and aesthetic autonomy. This predilection is found in the historical focus on large-scale music, from the Middle Ages and Renaissance motets and masses to the instrumental music from the common practice period (ca. 1750 to 1900). A musical work-concept, purported to have universal applicability within Western music history, was even proposed for the musical culture of 1800s Vienna (Goehr, 1992), generating controversy (Steingo, 2014). In this panorama, Iberian music, with its distinct musico-poetic and instrumental genres, has remained on the margins of both Western music histories and from the debates that have shaped current musicological discourse. Latin America inherited much of the Iberian musical traditions and as well as its peripheral status in music historiography, and early music remains studied under northern precepts.

The villancico exemplifies this oversight in Western music historiography. Originating in the late medieval period, this musico-poetic genre was cultivated for centuries in Iberia and the Americas, shaping various musical practices. In contrast to the music highlighted in Western music histories, the villancico’s uniqueness lies in its semantic recontextualization of verbal and musical structures, expressed in concise yet richly layered compositions. Its flair for gloss and dramatic performance owes much to influential figures like Juan del Encina (ca. 1468-1529) and Gil Vicente (ca. 1465-1536), polymaths who pioneered Iberian theater and integrated polyphonic villancicos into their plays. Despite its rich history, the villancico remains a niche subject in music history.

In part, the marginalization of the villancico can be attributed to the genre’s perceived simplicity when analyzed through Northern European frameworks. However, additional historical factors, still largely unconsidered, have also played a role in the study of Iberian and Latin American music, such as the influence of the Spanish Black Legend. First conceptualized by Julián Juderías in 1914, the Black Legend is recognized in the humanities as a process that 'othered' Spain and Hispanic cultures in historical studies (Greer, Mignolo, and Quilligan, 2007). This perception emerged from a war of words in the early modern age, where countries aligned with the Reformation sought to discredit Spain for its actions during the conquest of America, often utilizing misleading sources (Carbia, 1943). These accusations reinforced preexisting stereotypes depicting Spain as 'racially contaminated' due to the longstanding presence of Jews and Muslims in its territory. Although the Black Legend has profoundly influenced the perception of Spain and its cultural heritage, its impact remains largely overlooked in musicology, with only a few notable exceptions (Etzion, 1998).

Considering the peripheral status of genres like the villancico in Western music histories, and the factors that have conditioned the study of Spain and Hispanic musical cultures, such as the Black Legend, what are the alternatives to critically approaching early music in Latin America? The proposed book seeks contributions that aim to reassess our musical past on historical, aesthetic, and theoretical grounds. Approaches from Latin American musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and scholars in the humanities are welcome, seeking to illuminate music that has been misinterpreted or overlooked by traditional frameworks. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Proposing analytical tools for the study of early Latin American music genres or Iberian musical genres that are significant for the former region.
  • Investigating historical and philosophical forces that shaped the study of the music from these regions.
  • Problematizing or reassessing the concept of early music in Latin America.

This call is an invitation to explore and challenge prevailing narratives, offering fresh insights into the diverse musical heritage of Latin America. Authors can submit their abstracts (300 words, in English, Spanish, or Portuguese), and a short biography (100 words in English) to Guillermo Luppi at by April 30, 2024. Selected contributions should be 4500-6000 words, including footnotes, and adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style Author-Date citation format.

This proposal is due on April 30th 2024.

Page last updated on January 26th 2024. All information correct at the time, but subject to change.