Prof. Robin Moore to translate Cuban music author’s essays to English for first time

Robin Moore

Robin Moore

Robin Moore, professor of ethnomusicology in the Butler School of Music, has been granted a $5,000 book subvention award by the UT Office of the Vice President for Research’s Subvention Grants Program in support of an annotated translation of the works of Cuban music author Fernando Ortiz (1881-1969), to be published by Temple University Press.

Moore, who has been the editor of Latin American Music Review since 2005, had been considering taking the project on for about five years. He was encouraged by a colleague who is the editor of a series on Latin American music at Temple Press to pursue the project, which meant contacting the heirs of author Ortiz in Spain, making selections of his writings for inclusion, and vetting the idea with the Temple Press editorial board. The working title is Fernando Ortiz on Music: Selected Writings on Afro-Cuban Expressive Culture.

“Cuban music has wide popularity, and thus Ortiz’s work will interest a general readership of fans and performers,” wrote Moore in his prospectus. “Beyond this, the text will prove useful to students of Cuban studies, Caribbean studies, Latin American studies, African diaspora studies, ethnomusicology, cultural anthropology, and related fields.”

Ortiz has received recognition as the instigator and early advocate of Afro-Cuban studies; he founded the Society of Afrocuban Studies in Havana in 1937, and organized and edited periodicals dedicated to the investigation of Cuban traditional arts. Yet despite his importance, most of Ortiz’s works on music—which in fact constitute the majority of what he published—have never been translated into English.

Moore will translate several of Ortiz’s essays, including shorter instrument essays on various types of percussion, as well as others on songs, dances, ritual processions and ceremonies in which specific forms of music derived from Yoruba, Kongo, and other West African groups is a central component. To preface the book, Moore will write an extended essay outlining the scope of Ortiz’s inquiries as well as the author’s origins of source material, his changing attitude towards Afro-Cuban expressive arts, and his interactions with academic co-collaborators.

Moore notes his book “could serve as a supplemental text for those teaching on the history of ideas in the Caribbean and Latin America, and those interested in debates over race, culture, and society.”