Double Meanings in Carlos Chavez’s Horsepower [abstract only[

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Latin American Music Center
Gala crowds braved torrential rain and thunder to see the premiere of Carlos Chávez’s ballet H.P. (Horsepower or Caballos de Vapor) on March 31, 1932. The performance was directed by Leopold Stokowski, choreographed by Catherine Littlefield, and featured sets and costumes by Diego Rivera. It marked the first major performance of Chávez’s music in the U.S. Advance publicity emphasized a utopian Pan-American reading of the scenario; it advertised the composer’s use of son, tango, and zandunga, Rivera’s tropical fruit costumes, and Stokowski’s research trips to Mexico. A close study of Chávez’s manuscript score indicates, however, that the composer’s public support of a Pan-American reading was contradicted by the quasi-hidden dystopic program evident in the score. There the son and zandunga are overwhelmed by aggressive, dissonant, mechanical “Northern” sounds, closely identified with the U.S. Although Chávez managed to conceal his true program from Stokowski, Littlefield, and U.S. critics—the overt message of American cooperation was far more appealing than the co-optation represented in the score—the existence of the alternate program wrecked havoc on the necessarily collaborative art of ballet production, rendering the H.P. premiere confused and confusing. As a result, reviewers concurred that, “It was more of a sensation before it began than after it was over.” In this paper I will examine evidence for a hidden program in Chávez’s music for H.P., and analyze its affect on the performance and reception of the work.
Cultural, Conferencia, Cultural Counterpoints, Interactions, Latin America, Latin American Music Center, Music, Musical, Música, Música Latinoamericana, United States, Fiftieth Anniversary, 50th anniversary, Horsepower, Carlos Chávez, Caballos de Vapor, Leopold Stokowski, Catherine Littlefield, Diego Rivera, Pan-American, Inter-American, Mexico
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