Introducing the Music Division’s HNIP Intern and Project

I am happy to introduce Melinda Gonzalez, a full-time intern working with me through December on an inventory of the Music Division’s primary sources related to Latin American composers. Melinda is here in the Music Division through the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities National Internship Program (HNIP). Let’s get to know Melinda and the great work she has been doing since her arrival in September. I plan to write a Research Guide using the information compiled over the course of this project, so stay tuned!

HNIP Intern Melinda Gonzalez in the Performing Arts Reading Room with the holograph score of II invención (1965) by Carlos Chávez and an invaluable reference resource, Latin American Classical Composers: A Biographical Dicitionary (3rd edition). Photo by Melissa Wertheimer.

MW: Where did you go to college, and what was your major? How does your academic background inform your daily work on this project?

MG: I recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a major in ethnic studies and a minor in business administration. Ethnic studies is the study of race, race relations, systems of power, and systems of difference. I studied, and continue to study, the ways that difference functions in our global society. My major in ethnic studies has trained me to think critically and to continue to ask questions. This has allowed me to approach this project with continued curiosity. My education in the history of colonialism and genocide in Latin American countries allows me to confirm that the work that you and I are doing is critical.

MW: I know I gave you a lot of introductory reading to do before you dug into the inventory. Was any of the information or vocabulary new or surprising to you?

MG: Never having studied music, music theory or music history, I was very interested in learning about a field that I have no background in. It was really impressive to learn about the connection between music and culture, and how historical moments such as colonization impacted that connection. As Latin American countries developed, their connection to European countries remained strong. I had not realized how much the community of Latin American composers was centered on European teachings. I think that the publication of this Research Guide will help further uplift the legacy of Latin American composers, and to bring increased attention to the study of Latin American composers.

One of the oldest holograph scores in the project inventory is an excerpt of the opera Ollanta by Peruvian composer José María Valle-Riestra, This excerpt was created on September 12, 1907; the opera premiered in 1900 in Lima, Peru. Call number ML96.V16 CASE, Music Division.

MW: What types of primary sources have you worked with in the Music Division’s collections to this point? Is this a first for you? What’s it like?

MG: So far, I have spent most of my time focusing on holographs, which are scores written in the hand of the author. I had never worked with holographs prior to this project. The experience of holding something that has been in the hands of the author is pretty unreal. I feel lucky to be able to work with primary sources of this caliber, and I treat these materials with extreme care given that I would like for them to exist for hundreds of years to come. As the project progresses, I will work with facsimiles, correspondence, and photographs.

MW: What information do you include in the inventory? Can you describe the various tasks you do each day for this project, your process, and the resources you use?

MG: I have been recording the names of the composers, their country of origin/heritage, the primary source format, how I located it, the year that the source was completed or created, the call number, and an online catalog link or card catalog drawer number. The process of gathering this information across the card catalog, online catalog, and physical searches can be reduced to two words: tedious and thorough. With your guidance, I have been going through source locations multiple times in order to ensure that all Latin American primary sources are accounted for. It is laborious yet rewarding.

MW: Are there countries of personal interest to you? Why?

MG: My parents, blood, culture and heritage come from Mexico. Throughout my entire life, my family and history has been split between two countries. Thus, I have loved finding sources related to Mexican composers. Even if I have no prior knowledge of these composers, I feel a distinct connection to their work. This feeling of connection can be triggered by something as simple as the spelling of their name.

Another of the oldest holograph scores in the project inventory is the score for Acts I and II of the opera Il sogno di Alma by Argentine composer Carlos López Buchardo, completed 1907-1909 in Buenos Aires. Call number ML96.L857 no. 1 CASE, Music Division.

MW: Have you listened to any music or composers included in this project? Any favorites?

MG: It has been impossible to not want to listen to the composers whom I have been working with. While I have not gotten a chance to listen to all, I have tried to listen to at least one from each country. My favorites so far have been Carlos Chávez from Mexico, Tania León from Cuba, and Heitor Villa-Lobos from Brazil.

MW: What has been the most surprising or fascinating aspect of this project to you so far, such as information you’ve learned or items you’ve worked with?

MG: The most interesting thing that I have learned from this research experience is that it is not possible to find your answer to a research question in one place. In order to ensure that I find complete information, it must be corroborated by research in multiple sources. I have never worked this intensely with primary sources, so it has been very fascinating to work with them in conjunction with trusted reference sources. Resources I use include biographical dictionaries and online music encyclopedias.

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