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Harmony and Normalization - US-Cuban Musical Diplomacy

Harmony and Normalization

US-Cuban Musical Diplomacy

By Timothy P. Storhoff
Hardcover : 9781496830876, 238 pages, October 2020
Paperback : 9781496830883, 238 pages, October 2020

How policy can transform music and how musicians and performances create lasting bonds


Harmony and Normalization: US-Cuban Musical Diplomacy explores the channels of musical exchange between Cuba and the United States during the eight-year presidency of Barack Obama, who eased the musical embargo of the island and restored relations with Cuba. Musical exchanges during this period act as a lens through which to view not only US-Cuban musical relations but also the larger political, economic, and cultural implications of musical dialogue between these two nations. Policy shifts in the wake of Raúl Castro assuming the Cuban presidency and the election of President Obama allowed performers to traverse the Florida Straits more easily than in the recent past and encouraged them to act as musical ambassadors. Their performances served as a testing ground for political change that anticipated normalized relations.

While government actors debated these changes, music forged connections between individuals on both sides of the Florida Straits. In this first book on the subject since Obama’s presidency, musicologist Timothy P. Storhoff describes how, after specific policy changes, musicians were some of the first to take advantage of new opportunities for travel, push the boundaries of new regulations, and expose both the possibilities and limitations of licensing musical exchange. Through the analysis of both official and unofficial musical diplomacy efforts, including the Havana Jazz Festival, the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba’s first US tour, the Minnesota Orchestra’s trip to Havana, and the author’s own experiences in Cuba, this ethnography demonstrates how performances reflect aspirations for stronger transnational ties and a common desire to restore the once-thriving US-Cuban musical relationship.


"Cuba—so long a political and cultural enigma to much of the world—remains a vibrant, bubbling cauldron of musical delights unprecedented in the Western hemisphere. Travel with ethnomusicologist Timothy P. Storhoff into the heart of the world’s largest and most intriguing island of music and see how music’s power as a universal language of diplomacy is helping transform Cuban-American relations. Feel the beat of the island’s storied love of music festivals, its unique and astonishingly creative contributions to the world’s musical canon, and its valiant struggle to preserve an unparalleled musical heritage in the face of a changing political landscape that presents Americans with their best chance of personally enjoying the Cuban music experience in more than six decades."

- Jan DeCosmo, professor of humanities in the Department of Visual Arts, Humanities and Theatre at Florida A&M University