Grisel Hernandez, musicologist, educator and researcher. Author: Marian Garrido Cordovi
At the Museo Nacional de la Música, we took advantage of the proximity of the Havana International Book Fair 2023 to reconnect with the authors of books published by our editorial label. Marian Garrido, its editor, came up with the idea of conception booktrailers to make the promotion more enjoyable. This is how we came out to meet our authors, or rather to greet them, because the story that I am telling you today took place in the Seville courtyard of this institution.
Regarding this Seville patio, I will say that it is ideal for photography, which has nothing to envy to fashionable filters on the net. Until now, I have not seen a single person who was photographed in the courtyard and did not later show off the magic that is revealed in the colors and energy of this place: greenery, mosaics, a giant table of crystal and hum. who comes every day to brighten up the day. But this story is not about photography, ideal locations or birds. The heroine of my story is a woman.
Grisel Hernandez Baguer, musicologist, teacher, researcher and author – among many other publications – of one of our texts: Historias para una historia, which “offers an approach to the personality of Argelliere León, considered the father of modern Cuban musicology, through the eyes of those who accompanied him on his busy life path. This is explained on the back cover of the book, published in 2012. Until now, only this was known about her.
When we’re done doing booktrailer she stayed to talk to us for a while, though due to the fact that she had little time to devote to us, because her mother, Dania Baguer Canals, is a retired teacher whom she takes care of full time, waiting for her at home.
From student to teacher
In many families, it is accepted that children inherit their parents’ love for the profession and forge their own path in the same field of knowledge. This is what happened to Grisel because, like his mother, his father, Hiram Hernandez Robau was also a teacher and one of the founders of the University of Educational Sciences. Enrique José Varona.
Without even knowing it, since her student years at the National School of Arts (ENA), her teachers recognized this pedagogical gift, which was later shaped by Argelliers Leon, who taught her not only music, but also how to always defend ethics, how to lead fairly and teach with great responsibility. Grisel herself tells us about all this:
Since I was at ENA, I was invited by teacher José María Bido to give presentations, speak to the public, and I always wondered why I was doing it. Many years later, Argelier himself confessed to me that he and Bidault talked about the future of musicology and about who could take responsibility for continuing the work they had begun. My colleague Liliana Gonzalez told me that during her research on Maestro Fariñas, she also found references to these conversations where they pointed to me as a possible replacement.
From the first year the teacher Argelliere was very strict with me as he was with all his students but I was the youngest, I had just graduated from ENA and others had careers on the way, I mean Zoila Gomez, Victoria Elie, Rolando Perez . , among many others who today are recognized musicologists in Cuba and abroad.
Then I stayed to work with him, at the Department of Musicology, and it was a completely different experience, because he shaped me as a professional and as a person.
These are very pleasant memories, and some are even funny. One day we were in the classroom, and the teacher Roberto Valera came into the classroom, and just like that, for no reason at all, Argelier points to me and says to Valera: “This girl cannot quit musicology!”
I shrugged my shoulders and thought: why are you telling me this now, if I’m not going to leave musicology anyway?
As in the first group that began training, we were all workers, classes were conducted from 5 o’clock in the afternoon to 9 o’clock in the evening; You can imagine how difficult it was to deal with exhaustion, but as a good teacher, Argelier understood this and began to tell us stories about how he did field work or explained his own recipes for smoothies from avocado and cucumber juice, and other cooking mixtures. with ingredients that seemed very rare to us at the time. Thus, we resumed the class thread and reoriented.
Already a graduate, among my first students was Lino Neira, who was the Deputy Director of the ESA when I studied there. It was very funny, because everywhere he saw me, he said: “This is my first teacher!” and I was terribly sorry.
There are people who know that they are important and make it visible in their relationships with others, but this is not the case with the main character of this story, because the teacher Griselle speaks to you with tenderness and, above all, with amazing humility. I say this is amazing, because when we know all her work, the merits and scientific degrees that she possesses, and even the fact that she is the direct heiress of the entire legacy of the musicologists Argelliere Leon and Maria Teresa Linares, this would be enough . go through life boasting like so many others do, even if they don’t have as many reasons as Professor Grisel. Of the humility with which he also shares his knowledge, he tells us:
My intention as a teacher in all the years that I have taught – and there are already many – has always been that students have a certain scientific level and love musicology in terms of seeing it as a science, but where they are also involved from the very beginning of their own learning as musicians.
I also insist on sharing with them the experience and knowledge of the work of Argelliere Léon, Maria Teresa Linares (Tete) and all the great masters who have preceded us.
Another element that I think is important is that they see from a musicological point of view what is currently happening so that they are not left behind. It is necessary to know what is happening in the world regarding the theoretical and musicological sciences and how they relate to other disciplines.
Past, present and future
If we were to evaluate the training of Cuban musicologists at the academy, then of course Grisel would be one of the authorized voices for this, so we took advantage of the meeting to find out his opinion on the past, present and future of this specialty, which is already celebrating its 45th anniversary. existence in our country.
The teaching staff of the Department of Musicology has always consisted of professors who were once students of Argelier, and in turn, our students have gained this experience through us. Thus, we have preserved the direction of thought of the father of modern Cuban musicology and at the same time updated musicological thought with new international trends in mind. The bibliographic situation was difficult, but somehow the contacts established with specialists from other countries helped us in this. Also important is the contribution of Cuban musicologists working abroad, who have not lost contact with Cuba and cooperate in everything they can.
Maturity has been reached in the established generations, but I think there should be more emphasis on renewal. Young teaching staff should insist on maintaining those connections with the theory and methods that are used in the world to approach the musicological problem, it is necessary to know what new approaches are.
Now the controversial issue of musical criticism and the absence of this criticism has been raised again. We at the academy, as well as with musicologists from other institutions, have argued a lot about the perspective that is required of musicology in relation to criticism. I think that in this sense there is a mistake, we need criticism to write about a concert, to write about a television program, but criticism is much more. When we analyze a piece of music or a composer, we criticize; when we write sheet music for a book or record, we also criticize. Therefore, criticism for us, musicologists, is much more than a text dedicated to a specific event. The musicologist carries out criticism from the moment he realizes himself as such.
The untold history of the music department
Since the book fair was the original reason for this story, I will tell you two things: firstly, Grisel has decided to retire, and although the teachers’ goodbyes are never final, he will formally no longer walk the corridors of the Higher Institute of Arts (ISI ). But, firstly, it ensured that the entire history lived by the heroes of the origin, emergence and development of the music department did not remain scattered in the archives or, even worse, was not forgotten.
It turns out that Griselle Hernandez, along with Dean Maria del Rosario Hernandez and musicologist Ayler Perez, recently presented the results of an investigation involving this story.
When we celebrated the 45th anniversary of ISA in 2021, we realized that there was not enough text that would tell about everything that we have experienced. I myself, who attended that first graduation and then went on to work at ISA as a professor, realized that there were memories that were being erased.
In this study, we reconstructed the history of the music department based on the memories of students about teachers who are no longer there, and the testimonies of teachers who are still alive. There is also an important collection of photographs and documents.
This close association with the ENA is also included because that is where the ISA was conceived during the higher courses that were taught in the 70s. This natural connection continues to this day, and it is important to emphasize it.
It also explains how the faculty monasteries were formed, the emergence of the various professions that led the music faculty at every stage, among other important aspects to understand what has been done until today.
At this moment of the conversation, teacher Grisel not only revealed herself as a musicologist, teacher, researcher and author of one of our books. The opportunity to meet a person, to feel her, to see her calm gestures, to hear her pleasant timbre of voice united me with her and her text much more than any review, no matter how good it may be.
“My stories for a story” is no longer just another book in the family library, but part of a pleasant memory. As evidence of the existence of this meeting, the dedication that Grisel wrote to me remained in the copy that I brought with me. From now on, whenever I return to its pages to get any information about the work of Maestro Argelier Leon, to learn more about his love for Aunt Linares and how much he loved to enjoy the chocolate that he shared with his grandson Rodrigo, I will first read the words that Grisel dedicated to me, “with love.”
Source: Juventud Rebelde