The Political Power of Music, 1960s-1973J. Patrice McSherry
Chilean New Song ( la Nueva Canción chilena) entranced and uplifted a country that struggled for social change during the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s, until the 1973 coup that overthrew democratic socialist president Salvador Allende. This powerful musical style—with its poetic lyrics and haunting blend of traditional indigenous wind and stringed instruments—was born of and expressed the aspirations of rising classes. It promised a socially just future as it forged social bonding.
In Chilean New Song, J. Patrice McSherry deftly combines a political-historical view of Chile with a narrative of its cultural development. She examines the democratizing power of this music and, through interviews with key protagonists, the social roles of politically committed artists who participated in a movement for change. McSherry explores the impact of Chilean New Song and the way this artistic/cultural phenomenon related to contemporary politics to capture the passion, pain, and hope of millions of Chileans.
"Chilean New Song , a product of several years of research conducted by J. Patrice McSherry in Chile, will have a significant impact on many of its readers.... The reader quickly moves from a rich, concise introduction to the rise of la nueva cancion, and its connection to social change, to the book's conclusion.... McSherry's discussion of la nueva cancion in Chapter 3 is exceptional. Here one can observe the process of blending folklore with an original composition.... Chilean New Song is a beautifully written treatise on the creative grassroots soul of Chile. The book also contributes to the literature on music and song as resistance, and to cultural and political memory studies."
—Journal of Third World Studies
"McSherry offers a thoroughly researched and clearly argued account of the origins of the 'New Song' movement, the role it played in helping to articulate a common set of popular demands, its interactions with the UP (Popular Unity) parties, and its relation to the broader cultural environment supported by Allende's government. Her book provides the single, most detailed history of the history of this musical genre and is significantly enhanced by the numerous interviews that she conducted with many of the most important surviving performers of that era.... McSherry's analysis opens the door to a reconsideration of political formation during the Popular Unity years, an essential historiographic contribution.... (A)n extremely valuable resource for those interested in the way that the revolutionary politics of the Popular Unity years was articulated and circulated as culture."
"McSherry focuses on the development and significance of Chile’s nueva canción, or ‘new music,’ movement, which was linked inextricably to social, political, and cultural conditions in Chile.... (T)he research is impressive…she includes interviews with many musicians and other key figures in nueva canción.... A valuable resource for those interested in the intersection of the arts, politics, and culture."
"Chilean New Song is a valuable book. It is interesting, well structured, well sourced, and fluidly written. McSherry's theoretical framework and political science foundation provide a useful way to approach New Song within the broader Chilean cultural context of the time. The in-depth interviews with numerous participants in Chilean New Song are a tremendous source of insight into and elaboration of central points through first-person accounts of the events discussed."
—Nancy Morris, Professor of Media and Communication, Temple University
" McSherry very clearly understands the power of la Nueva Canción in Chilean society, culture, and politics during the 1960s and 1970s, bringing to bear a solid grasp of the secondary literature and an impressive collection of oral-history interviews that give great vibrancy and life to the story of the movement. Her interviews with figures ranging from the famous—Ángel Parra and Quilapayún—to the ‘behind-the-scenes’ folks who were crucial to the movement's emergence, development, and success are impressive. What emerges is a treatment of la Nueva Canción that weds the cultural and the political with the real-life experiences of Chileans who were agents in the creation of the cultural-political milieu in which they circulated."
—Patrick Barr-Melej, Associate Professor of History, Ohio University, and author of Reforming Chile: Cultural Politics, Nationalism, and the Rise of the Middle Clas
" This book provides interesting theoretical frameworks for understanding creativity and politics within Chilean New Song. McSherry offers not only a synthesis of literatures regarding the political scene in Chile during the early 1970s and a good history of the Chilean Left and its cultural problems and achievements but also insights into the internal political agenda of the Chilean Left in the early 1970s and its relation to New Song and culture in general. This is a very good book."
—Juan Pablo González, Director, Instituto de Música, Alberto Hurtado University, Chile
"(E)legantly written. . .an interesting analysis of the political context of the early years of Nueva Canción, expanding the rather small literature in English about the topic."
—Latin American Music Review
" McSherry writes in a clear and engaging style, and the book is highly accessible to the general reader.... McSherry weaves a narrative built heavily on interviews with New Song musicians themselves, and often cites them at length. Some of these interviews constitute revealing, valuable sources for understanding the nuances of the New Song movement."
—Latin American Politics and Society
"(A) detailed analysis of the historical and political context in which New Song emerged in Chile in the 1960s, and also an illuminating survey of the motivations and aims of the movement’s composers within Chile as articulated by the artists themselves.... The main original contribution of this highly readable book is its in-depth oral-history interviews with many of the movement’s most important Chilean practitioners, which provide a fascinating insight into the primary motivations and subsequent reflections of these committed musicians.... (T)hese interviews... shed new light on the musicians' experiences within the movement and their own evaluations of what they believe they achieved through music at that time."
—Bulletin of Latin American Research
"Combining a study of Chile's political history with the analysis of songs' lyrics and oral history from some key figures in the Nueva Canción Chilena (Chilean New Song, CHNS) movement, McSherry rescues a very important part of Chilean and Latin American history.... The book is very well written and researched. The generations that grew up during this time will experience a nostalgic trip reviving the powerful lyrics discussed throughout the chapters. The newer generations, on the other hand, will find in this book a valuable tool to appreciate the political and historical context in which these artists and their cultural production came to exist."
—Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research
"In her book Chilean New Song , political scientist J. Patrice McSherry asks how la nueva canción became so powerful. Her answer draws on the work of political theorists, most notably Antonio Gramsci, and on the collective experiences of those who participated in the new song movement as musicians, graphic artists, promoters, and supporters. The result is a thought-provoking exploration of the relationship between culture and politics in Chile across the turbulent decades of the 1960s and 1970s.... McSherry wisely allows the nueva canción participants to speak for themselves, and the richness of their voices is one of the many contributions her book has to offer.... (An) original and thorough investigation of the topic."
"(McSherry's) compelling book introduces readers to the emotional and political power of the cultural movement that stirred generations of people in Latin America and the world during a revolutionary period in Chile. It is unique...in that it focuses on the interaction of music and politics from the 1960s to the coup that overthrew the Allende government in 1973.... McSherry's book is theoretically insightful and empirically grounded in the structural and historical conditions that gave rise to New Song and the popular, socialist-leaning movement that brought Allende to power in 1970.... What makes the book so powerful is the rich evidence McSherry brings from the musicians themselves about the organic development of New Song through interaction with the people of the towns and the countryside."
—Latin American Perspectives
"(The book) approaches with rigor and depth a musical movement of great interest to the study of popular urban music in the second half of the twentieth century.... The strength of this study lies in its theoretical and political basis.... Chilean New Song is an indispensable book for lovers of the Nueva Cancion and researchers of this movement and the history of Chile."
—Hispanic American Historical Review
"(F)ascinating and beautifully written.... Overall, the book is a welcome contribution to the field of popular music politics, expanding the rather small literature in English about the New Song movement. It contributes to presenting a comprehensive account of the movement and its relation with other cultural movements of the time and analysing it in interrelationship with contemporary Latin American history."
— Popular Music