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Musical Resonances of Empire: Filipino Musicians and their African American Conductor Tour America's Symphony Halls and World's Fairs

Colloquium with Dr. Mary Talusan, Loyola Marymount University and CSU-Dominguez Hills

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

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Photo:  Capt. Pedro B. Navarro, first Filipino conductor of the Philippine Constabulary Band, ca. 1923. Mary Talusan collection. 

This presentation examines the responses of American audiences to Filipino musical performance during the early U.S. colonial era to argue that the myth of Filipinos having “natural” musical abilities resonated with America’s ideology of “benevolent assimilation” and still frames how Filipino performance is regarded today. By carefully excavating the origins of the myth at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 through the performances of a Filipino military band and their African American conductor, Talusan contends that much of Filipino performance in America is caught at the juncture of cultural invisibility and conformity created by race-making and empire-making that confirms the bias of American superiority and erases Filipino labor and agency in musical performance. She will discuss American reactions to Charice Pempengco and Arnel Pineda in connection with this troubled history.

Mary Talusan’s work examines Filipino and Filipino American musical performances through the complex web of race-making, U.S. colonization of the Philippines, and contemporary aspirations. Her scholarly publications include “Muslim Filipino Traditions in Filipino American Popular Culture” in Muslims and American Popular Culture (2014), “Marching to ‘Progress’: Music, Race, and Imperialism at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair” in Mixed Blessing: The Impact of the American Colonial Experience on Politics and Society in the Philippines (2013), “From Rebel Songs to Moro Songs: Martial Law and Muslim Filipino Protest,” Humanities Diliman (2010), and “Gendering the Philippine Brass Band: Women of the Ligaya Band and National University Band, 1920s-1930s” Musika Jornal (2009). Her book-in-progress is entitled Symphony Halls, World’s Fairs, and America’s Racial Others: Concert Tours of the Philippine Constabulary Band and African American Officer Walter H. Loving in early 20th Century. Talusan earned a Ph.D. from UCLA's Dept. of Ethnomusicology and received the Fulbright (IIE), FLAS, Ford Dissertation Fellowship, and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Cost : Free and open to the public.

Barbara Gaerlan


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies