Shaping Solidarity: Music, Diplomacy, and Inter-American Relations, 1936--1946

Date of Completion


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Music, Musical Diplomacy, Aaron Copland, Lincoln Kirstein, Ballet Caravan, Yale Glee Club, League of Composers

Major Advisor

Alain Frogley

Associate Advisor

Glenn Stanley

Associate Advisor

Eric Rice

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Open Access

Open Access


Motivated by economic interest, as well as a concern for national defense, United States officials looked to South America during the 1930s and 1940s in an effort to forge a united front capable of withstanding European economic and cultural hegemony. As part of this endeavor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for the first time in U.S. history, established government offices formally dedicated to using cultural diplomacy as a mechanism of foreign policy. This dissertation explores the U.S. government's decision to articulate a pro-American message through cultural exportation, chronicling the role music and musicians played in the government's attempt to shape inter-American relationships and to affect the views that South Americans held about the culture of the United States. ^ Through archival research, musical analysis, and reception history, the following chapters probe several related events. Chapter 1 discusses the establishment of the Division of Cultural Relations within the U.S. State Department and the first major music event that the Division sponsored: the two-day Conference on Inter-American Relations in the Field of Music. Chapter 2 examines the activities of the Office of Inter-American Affairs Music Committee, whose members included Carleton Sprague Smith and Aaron Copland, and evaluates the collective artistic priorities expressed by the membership and the processes by which projects were chosen and recommended for government funding. Chapters 3–5 address the 1941 South American tours of three ensembles—the Yale Glee Club, the League of Composers Wind Quintet, and the American Ballet Caravan. The details surrounding the physical implementation of these three tours are discussed to some degree, but the primary focus is on the repertoire, its North American identity, and the underlying issues of politics, race, and gender represented in the music performed. ^ The U.S. government's use of music as a diplomatic tool has received attention from historians and musicologists alike, but the bulk of the scholarship has centered on the Cold War era. Although that time was unquestionably a blossoming of musical diplomacy, the programs and processes developed during the "Good Neighbor" period ultimately served as prototypes for those cultural exchanges that flourished during the Cold War and beyond. ^