Dr. David Kendall, Assistant Professor of Music, was invited to participate in a panel discussion/lecture involving Music of the Americas at Cornell University on September 19, 2015. He attended the one-day symposium to present advanced scholarship discussing music in society from diverse sites in the Americas. This event shared research from disciplinary perspectives of history, musicology, ethnomusicology, and cultural studies covering music in the United States, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.
“Civilization at the Point of the Cornet: The Philippine Constabulary Band and the Display of the Sociocultural Evolutionary Continuum at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair”.
The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis was among the first large-scale international events in which Americans displayed their recently acquired colonial possessions in the wake of the Spanish-American War. World’s Fairs have long been showcases for the progress and enlightenment of the modern Western nation. This was justified in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries partly through the popularization of the new field of sociology that provided a lineal evolutionary model of human sociocultural development. This model was now widely available for illustration in St. Louis due to the recent American colonial possession of the Philippines. This new colony boasted of dozens of ethnolinguisitic groups at various levels of social and cultural development, allowing the Fair organizers to display both the range of the continuum and the benefits of American colonialism, all in one large 47-acre “habitat.”
Additionally, the continuum was displayed in the use of popular music at the Fair, especially in the many military-style bands that performed, including the Philippine Constabulary Band. Popular bands of the day “reached up” to the highest levels of art music culture by performing symphonic overtures and opera arias, while also “reaching down”, appropriating and repurposing the music of other cultures, both internal and external to the United States. In this way, Fair organizers established a Western-dominated social commentary on a grand scale, and an evolutionary continuum with the United States, the new colonial power, displayed prominently at its pinnacle.