This book was not initially about listening, the voice, or the nineteenth cen-
tury. The original project for the book was an inquiry into the intellectual
history of studies of popular music in Colombia from the 1930s to the 1970s.
I was especially interested in the correlation between music and the literary,
since the entanglement of the sonorous in different forms of narrative has
been central to Latin American musical thought, and many of its foundational
figures have been more widely recognized as writers than as music scholars.
Also, the field of folkloristics was historically shaped in such a way that the
study of the musical in the popular was often undertaken as an intellectual
and political endeavor that crossed the anthropological, the musical, and the
literary with multiple practices of cultural policy.
But when I went to the archives of the National Radio in Colombia (Radio
Nacional de Colombia) in 2008 to listen to the radio programs Colombian
folklorists had done throughout their career, I realized that programs on folk-
lore from the 1940s to the 1980s used what was initially a vanguard technol-
ogy, the radio, to promote a conservative listening pedagogy that constantly
cited nineteenth century Colombian sources. I then turned to the nineteenth
century archive to begin an initial exploration of the question of why such a
listening pedagogy had been so persistent, shaping many of the ideas about
the notions of música popular. To my surprise, I found an archive full of lis-
tening practices. As I found and read dispersed materials on such listening
practices in the nineteenth century, a sonorous written archive I had never
suspected was there began to take shape. As that archive took form, the topic
of this book gradually changed from the intellectual history of twentieth cen-
tury folklorists to the role of listening to different sounds considered “voices”
in shaping the notions of nature and culture, so central to understandings of
personhood and alterity that imbue the popular in Latin America.
This book took shape in the midst of conversations on popular music go-
ing back and forth between colleagues in Colombia, the United States and
other Latin American countries, particularly Brazil and Argentina. I am deeply
indebted to the possibility of such conversations across different places and
PrefAce AnD AcknOwleDGMentS