The Wonder of Delays

Vazquez, Alexandra T.

Let’s get to, and celebrate loud and now, the raptor-like intensity of not being distracted that is Licia Fiol-Matta’s The Great Woman Singer. By creating the complex badass ensemble of Myrta Silva, Ruth Fernandez, La Calandria, and Lucecita, Fiol-Matta asks us: what if we start here? What if we begin with the presumption of women’s musical activity rather than from that shorthanded place of negation? A place that doesn’t begin with how women entered, but made possible, the larger musical scene. This place, the beautiful migrant non-place of this book, goes straight for the historical fact of women in music, but also suggests how criticism (as a whole) has never been able to make this presumption ordinary to talk about them in a sustained, rather than corrective way. What links these performers is their multi-decade careers—which means that we get to follow them from girlhood to golden age. The robust longevity of these musicians, of women who made and make things in colonial modernity, suggests that we have to refigure just about everything that we think we know about the culture industry. Of the wonder of Lucecita and her bendy artistry of the mid-1960s, Fiol-Matta writes: “She had arrived at the scene, but she could not be interpreted yet” (184). I love this delay that the author leaves for herself and for all us here to say: these musicians require time and new words and worlds.

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November 13, 2019