Amidst independence-driven insurgency in the nineteenth century, the inhabitants of Cuba had created a localized creole culture that was distinct from their Spanish colonizers. Musically, the contradanza was a prime example of this process. It began as accompaniment for a Western European social dance before evolving into a salon-style genre that incorporated the various musical styles from the island’s diverse population. Local pianist and composer Ignacio Cervantes made the most significant contributions to this genre in the late nineteenth century. His sophisticated approach to these miniature pieces revitalized the contradanza, and his works are considered the pinnacle of this creolized Cuban form in the present day.
The objective of this thesis is to examine the contribution of Cervantes’ danzas to the development of Cuban art music as a whole, and to show how they can be used as an interpretative tool to study the emergence of Cuban identity in the 1800s. Using scores from 40 Danzas, I will examine the ways in which Cervantes combined his own individual artistic style, nineteenth century European compositional techniques, and Afro-Caribbean influences in a Cuban context.