Culture Not Determined by Political Boundaries

October 12, 2011

Here’s a fine illustration of why I considered it important to write the forthcoming biography of Xavier Montsalvatge. In this new interview with Frank Oteri, Klaus Heymann raises a good point and then trivializes it by comparing Catalan culture to that of Texas and “the rest of Spain” to New York:

KH: … Most of the big Spanish composers come from Catalunya, so there was a really big discussion: Should we put the Catalan flag on there or the Spanish flag? Most people don’t know where Catalunya is, but they know where Spain is. Then we have Basque music. We even have a Basque opera that was done on [my earlier label] Marco Polo, but now it will eventually come to Spanish Classics. There were big discussions about whether we risked an outcry from the Basque Country for having a Spanish flag on Basque composers’ music. In some of these countries where there are these ethnic or cultural tensions within different groups of the nation, is the flag a good thing or not?

FJO: I was at MIDEM in January and visited the booth of the Catalan music export office, which is a separate entity from the Spanish music export office. I thought that such a thing would be unthinkable in the United States, and then I chanced upon a Texas music export booth.

KH: You have all these different states’ interests. I think there might actually be a greater cultural difference between Texas and New York State than there is between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.

FJO: Even though there is less of a linguistic difference, but maybe even that’s not completely true.

KH: I would say that there’s a linguistic difference between Texas and New York as well.

When New York explicitly outlaws the language and culture of Texas for long periods (not to mention when “most of the big composers” come from Texas) and enforces that proscription with armed force, then we may begin to compare the situation of Texas to that of millennium-old Catalonia and that of the United States to the past and present of the Spanish state.

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