Agustin Barrios Mangore:A study in the articulation of cultural identity

The notion of cultural identity as a crucial constitutive element of guitar performance was powerfully expressed in the career of Agustín Barrios, a major but neglected figure in the development of the guitar in the twentieth century. Barrios’ adoption in the 1930s of the persona of Mangoré, a Guaraní Indian from the sixteenth century, provided both a theatrical persona of musical exoticism and primitivism, and a potent statement of Latin American cultural independence. The concept of cultural identity, which has been central to the development of the discipline of ethnomusicology, is here adopted as a theoretical framework against which Mangoré is discussed. The cultural and musical environment of Latin America in the early decades of the twentieth century, and the iconic status of the guitar in those countries, is considered as the background to the case study proper, that of Barrios as Mangoré between 1930 and 1934. It is argued that as Mangoré, Barrios personified Latin American cultural identity in dramatic fashion, that Mangoré aligned with the European fascination with the primitive during this period and that, moreover, Mangoré retained an authentic and enduring value for Barrios to the end of his life. The significance of Mangoré is then revealed through a discussion of two categories of Barrios’ compositions: the folkloric works which exemplified his treatment of Latin American musical genres; and the tremolo works which expressed the fantasy and romanticism that were integral to his musical imagination. Finally, the relationship between Barrios and Segovia is considered, both in terms of the latter’s self-proclaimed role in the creation of the modern guitar repertoire, and of his criticism of Mangoré and the light this throws on Segovia’s own cultural identity.

anthony McKenna Ward

Agustin Barrios Mangore-A study in the articulation of cultural identity

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