Domenico Zipoli, Hispanic Culture, and the Americas

Normally, when I write about BBC 3’s Early Music Show, I write about Lucie Skeaping, since I know her, but this time it’s Catherine Bott who did a very interesting show on Domenico Zipoli. Zipoli is a sort of obscure composer, although I first heard of him on Classic FM where his Elevazione For Solo Oboe, Solo Cello, Strings And Organ became something of a classical music hit in the 1990s thanks to its exposure on that station, making it to their Hall of Fame.

Of course, Zipoli’s works are relatively unknown and was thought to have disappeared from European musical life just as he made his mark with the publication of his first work, the Sonate d’intavolatura per organo e cimbalo. Scholars had known for a while that there was another Domenico Zipoli, active just after this time in Paraguay, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it was realised that the two composers were in fact one and the same.

What had happened was that Zipoli had joined the Jesuit reductiones and gone to South America – music played a pivotal role in in the missions, fulfilling the Jesuits’ aim of transmitting the idea of God to the natives.  Which takes us to the next part of all this, there was a significant Baroque Culture in the Americas.  Remember that the Americas were formally discovered by the Europeans in the late 15th Century, which was still the Middle Ages.  The Wars of the Roses had ended less than 10 years before Columbus “discovered” the New World.

Most of the Early development of the Americas was done by the Spanish with some help by the Portuguese.  The first City in North America was St. Augustine, Florida.  The British were still divided politically and wouldn’t see any significant colonisation of the New World until the reign of James I (VI of Scotland).  That means Spanish culture was pretty strongly entrenched in the Americas, which it would remain until  the US-Mexican Wars.  Those wars changed the cultural landscape to make the US predominant for most of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

The US victory over Mexico was one that said to some people (mostly in the US) that the “New World” had conquered the “old”, which has led to the denigration of Hispanics and Hispanic culture.  The problem with that belief is that Hispanic culture is much more entrenched in the Americas than that of the US.   In fact, one of the cultural problems with the US is that it doesn’t realise that it has acquired Hispanic territory through its imperialism and retains its belief in cultural superiority.  In fact, the US’s ignorance of its Hispanic inheritance is one of the problem with the rise of Hispanics in its population.

In fact, one of the problems with the US Culture wars is its ignorance of US history.  At one time (pre-1914-1918), the US was almost a bilingual society with German being the Second Language!  The Motto of the US is “E Pluribus Unum”: “out of many, one”.  The US needs to appreciate and respect its diversity.

In that regard, the US needs to accept its Hispanic heritage rather than deny it.

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