Music Colloquium Series: Cesar Favila (UCLA)

Friday, January 28, 2022, 4:00 PM

Virtual (Zoom)

“Sonic Theologies of Chastity and Obedience in New Spanish Convents”

Music colloquia provide a weekly forum for presentation and discussion of recent research by distinguished visitors and CWRU faculty and graduate students in musicology, historical performance practice, and music education.

All talks happen on Fridays at 4 PM and are free and open to the public. The spring semester schedule will begin virtually. Please email Kevin Whitman at for the Zoom meeting information. A possible return to in-person talks will be determined by University policy; please check the full schedule for updates.

If virginity had a sound, it would most likely sound like the Virgin Mary, according to some devotional sources intended for the indoctrination and spiritual contemplation of cloistered nuns in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New Spain. This talk traces that allegory from its inception in reflections on biblical narratives of Mary's life, including the Annunciation and the Visitation, while also highlighting some of the most complicated theological musings on the nature of the Virgin Mary's soul in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. While liturgical and devotional music honoring the Virgin Mary is ubiquitous across the early modern Catholic world—often amplifying the soundscape of local politics—this source study reveals that Mary herself could resound and be echoed. This rhetoric taught nuns that the Virgin of virgins was also the voice of all voices that the nuns themselves could resonate with within their cloisters. The talk problematizes the ambiguity with which the socially constructed insignia of virginity was deployed with sonic theologies of Mary's essence imposed on women religious by male clergymen.

Cesar Favila
 is a scholar of Mexican music and culture ranging from colonial New Spain to the contemporary Chicanx experience. His research is featured in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, the Journal of the Society for American Music, and Women & Music. Today’s talk features work that is under review with the Bulletin of Spanish Studies and from his forthcoming book, Immaculate Sounds: The Musical Lives of Nuns in New Spain. The book is under contract with Oxford University Press’s Currents in Latin American and Iberian Music Series and will be the first monograph on women’s music making in colonial Latin America. It addresses sacred music and its intersections with urban culture, gender, race, mysticism, theology, and other arts in a colonial Mexican context. His research has been supported through funding from the American Philosophical Society, the Society for American Music, and the Hellman Fellows program.