El Sistema is Venezuela’s large scale classical music education program for poor and working class people on the economic, social, and physical margins. In Sonorous Worlds: Musical Enchantment in Venezuela (University of Michigan, 2021), anthropologist Yana Stainova follows the lives of musicians in examining the effects of the program on individuals and communities. Through conversations and interactions with musicians during music lessons, performances, and during their daily lives, Stainova finds that classical music education opens up a space to dream and makes possible different futures than those generally available to working class youth. Stainova theorizes that musicians engage in enchantment, which arises from, for example, the music itself, the labor of musical practice, and the relations between people and their instruments. Yet, enchantment also exceeds these components and gives way to escape, rupture, and resistance to power structures. Stainova examines these matters as Venezuela falls into violence from economic and governmental crisis. During our discussion we talked about the arguments of the book, the writing and structure of the book, and conducting field research in the circumstances described above.
Yana Stainova is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at McMaster University.
Reighan Gillam is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California.
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