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Aaron Copland in Latin America
Music and Cultural Politics
Carol A. Hess
University of Illinois Press, 2023
Between 1941 and 1963, Aaron Copland made four government-sponsored tours of Latin America that drew extensive attention at home and abroad. Interviews with eyewitnesses, previously untapped Latin American press accounts, and Copland’s diaries inform Carol A. Hess’s in-depth examination of the composer’s approach to cultural diplomacy. As Hess shows, Copland’s tours facilitated an exchange of music and ideas with Latin American composers while capturing the tenor of United States diplomatic efforts at various points in history. In Latin America, Copland’s introduced works by U.S. composers (including himself) through lectures, radio broadcasts, live performance, and conversations. Back at home, he used his celebrity to draw attention to regional composers he admired. Hess’s focus on Latin America’s reception of Copland provides a variety of outside perspectives on the composer and his mission. She also teases out the broader meanings behind reviews of Copland and examines his critics in the context of their backgrounds, training, aesthetics, and politics.

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Beethoven in Beijing
Stories from the Philadelphia Orchestra's Historic Journey to China
Jennifer Lin
Temple University Press, 2022

In 1973, Western music was banned in the People’s Republic of China. But in a remarkable breakthrough cultural exchange, the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted a tour of closed-off China, becoming the first American orchestra to visit the communist nation. Jennifer Lin’s Beethoven in Beijing provides a fabulous photo-rich oral history of this boundary-breaking series of concerts the orchestra performed under famed conductor Eugene Ormandy.

Lin draws from interviews, personal diaries, and news accounts to give voice to the American and Chinese musicians, diplomats, journalists, and others who participated in and witnessed this historic event. Beethoven in Beijing is filled with glorious images as well as anecdotes ranging from amusing sidewalk Frisbee sessions and acupuncture treatments for sore musicians to a tense encounter involving Madame Mao dictating which symphony was to be played at a concert. 

A companion volume to the film of the same name, Beethoven in Beijing shows how this 1973 tour came at the dawn of a resurgence of interest in classical music in China—now a vital source of revenue for touring orchestras.


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Don't Act, Just Dance
The Metapolitics of Cold War Culture
Catherine Gunther Kodat
Rutgers University Press, 2014
At some point in their career, nearly all the dancers who worked with George Balanchine were told “don’t act, dear; just dance.” The dancers understood this as a warning against melodramatic over-interpretation and an assurance that they had all the tools they needed to do justice to the steps—but its implication that to dance is already to act in a manner both complete and sufficient resonates beyond stage and studio. 

Drawing on fresh archival material, Don’t Act, Just Dance places dance at the center of the story of the relationship between Cold War art and politics. Catherine Gunther Kodat takes Balanchine’s catch phrase as an invitation to explore the politics of Cold War culture—in particular, to examine the assumptions underlying the role of “apolitical” modernism in U.S. cultural diplomacy. Through close, theoretically informed readings of selected important works—Marianne Moore’s “Combat Cultural,” dances by George Balanchine, Merce Cunningham, and Yuri Grigorovich, Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, and John Adams’s Nixon in China—Kodat questions several commonly-held beliefs about the purpose and meaning of modernist cultural productions during the Cold War. 

Rather than read the dance through a received understanding of Cold War culture, Don’t Act, Just Dance reads Cold War culture through the dance, and in doing so establishes a new understanding of the politics of modernism in the arts of the period. 

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Losing Culture
Nostalgia, Heritage, and Our Accelerated Times
David Berliner
Rutgers University Press, 2020
We’re losing our culture… our heritage… our traditions… everything is being swept away.

Such sentiments get echoed around the world, from aging Trump supporters in West Virginia to young villagers in West Africa. But what is triggering this sense of cultural loss, and to what ends does this rhetoric get deployed?

To answer these questions, anthropologist David Berliner travels around the world, from Guinea-Conakry, where globalization affects the traditional patriarchal structure of cultural transmission, to Laos, where foreign UNESCO experts have become self-appointed saviors of the nation’s cultural heritage. He also embarks on a voyage of critical self-exploration, reflecting on how anthropologists handle their own sense of cultural alienation while becoming deeply embedded in other cultures. This leads into a larger examination of how and why we experience exonostalgia, a longing for vanished cultural heydays we never directly experienced.

Losing Culture provides a nuanced analysis of these phenomena, addressing why intergenerational cultural transmission is vital to humans, yet also considering how efforts to preserve disappearing cultures are sometimes misguided or even reactionary. Blending anthropological theory with vivid case studies, this book teaches us how to appreciate the multitudes of different ways we might understand loss, memory, transmission, and heritage.

front cover of The Moiseyev Dance Company Tours America
The Moiseyev Dance Company Tours America
"Wholesome" Comfort during a Cold War
Victoria Hallinan
University of Massachusetts Press, 2023

During the Cold War, dancers and musicians from the United States and the USSR were drawn into the battle for hearts and minds, crossing the Iron Curtain to prove their artistic and ideological prowess. After the passage of the Lacy-Zarubin Agreement, direct cultural exchange between the two superpowers opened up, and the Moiseyev Dance Company arrived in the United States in 1958. The first Soviet cultural representatives to tour America, this folk-dance troupe’s repertoire included dances from territories controlled or influenced by the USSR, including Uzbekistan, Crimea, and Poland.

Drawing on contemporary personal and published accounts, Victoria Hallinan explores why the dancers garnered overwhelming acclaim during their multicity tour and Ed Sullivan Show appearance. The “boy-meets-girl” love stories of the dances, and their idealized view of multiple Soviet cultures living together in harmony, presented a comforting image of post–World War II gender norms and race relations for audiences. Americans saw the dancers—their supposed enemies—as humans rather than agents of communist contagion.


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Museum Diplomacy
Transnational Public History and the U.S. Department of State
Richard J. W. Harker
University of Massachusetts Press, 2020
The Museums Connect program stands at the intersection of transnational public history and international diplomacy. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the American Alliance of Museums, this program partners U.S. museums and non-U.S. museums in projects designed to foster community collaboration and engagement. Museum Diplomacy focuses on three Museums Connect projects arranged between the United States and South Africa, Morocco, and Afghanistan, respectively. Utilizing a diverse range of oral interviews, Richard J. W. Harker explores how museums negotiate national boundaries, institutional and local histories, and post-9/11 geopolitical interests. Working in different political and professional contexts, museum partners have built community-driven collaborative exhibitions and projects that tell transnational stories.

As more historic sites and museums seek to surmount social, cultural, and economic barriers between themselves and their communities in their exhibitions and programming, the Museums Connect program provides important lessons on how to overcome entrenched hierarchies of power in public history.

front cover of Taking Books to the World
Taking Books to the World
American Publishers and the Cultural Cold War
Amanda Laugesen
University of Massachusetts Press, 2017
Franklin Publications, or Franklin Book Programs, was started in 1952 as a form of cultural diplomacy. Until it folded in the 1970s, Franklin translated, printed, and distributed American books around the world, with offices in Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Although it was a private firm, Franklin received funding from the United States Information Agency. This was an ambitious and idealistic postwar effort that ultimately became the victim of shifting politics.

In Taking Books to the World, Amanda Laugesen tells the story of this purposeful enterprise, demonstrating the mix of goodwill and political drive behind its efforts to create modern book industries in developing countries. Examining the project through a clarifying lens, she reveals the ways Franklin's work aligned with cultural currents, exposing the imperial beliefs, charitable hopes, and intellectual reasoning behind this global experiment.

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