Danzon No. 2

While this may not be the typical “museum” that comes to mind, I had the rare opportunity to watch the Los Angeles Philharmonic via livestream perform the iconic work for orchestra, Danzon No. 2 by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez.

As a musician, I personally work in concert halls, stage venues, and auditoriums to create artwork. A concert for a musician is basically like a museum for a painter. In a way, the only difference is how we decide to create our art.

The piece listed was popularized by many conductors, and one of them has become a social media craze by one of Mexico’s most acclaimed conductors, Alondra de la Parra. She is seen rehearsing the L’Orchestra de Paris halfway through the piece, and is seen really getting into the music itself trying to make it come alive for those who will be seated in the audience for the big performance.

While the performance of this piece is great, the reality behind it is still a very sad story to tell. Most people have either: a) no idea who the composer is, b) have limited knowledge of the classical side of Latin American composers, and/or c) any combination of the above in different ratios. What is the problem? There are several factors at play.

As suggested in Marti’s essay, “Our America,” most people would simply rather choose to assimilate into Western Caucasian culture for fear of rejection. Any kind of folk music setting to this day is seen as “low brow” or “children’s concerts” for many leading orchestras, and only focus on pieces that have been cited in Western culture for being “iconic” (i.e. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, etc.)

What we ought to focus on is what Gary Soto celebrates in his short story, “Like Mexicans.” We should celebrate cultural identity not because it makes us a whole person; it is who we are. There should be more pieces like the Marquez Danzon performed more frequently, and there should be more conductors like de la Parra leading major symphony orchestras (she has a lot going against her because of heritage and being a woman, but that’s another blog post for a different day.)

We shouldn’t fear differences in culture, and we should never assimilate for the fear of rejection.

Video credit: Orchestra de Paris youtube.com

Picture credit: Arturo Marquez conducts Miami University Symphony Orchestra



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