Alejandro L. Madrid

Professor of Music
Music Building

Alejandro L. Madrid is a cultural theorist of sound and music working in Latin American and Latinx studies. His recent scholarship, at the intersection of musicology, ethnomusicology, and performance studies, focuses on sound archives; race and representation in Afro-Latinx communities; homophobia and masculinity; as well as historiography and biographical narratives. His latest books, Tania León’s Stride. A Polyrhythmic Life, and In Search of Julián Carrillo and Sonido 13 were published by the University of Illinois Press and Oxford University Press in 2021 and 2015 respectively. He has also published Danzón. Circum-Caribbean Dialogues in Music and Dance (Oxford University Press, 2013), co-authored with Robin Moore; Nor-tec Rifa! Electronic Dance Music from Tijuana to the World (Oxford University Press, 2008); Los sonidos de la nación moderna. Música, cultura e ideas en el México post-revolucionario, 1920-1930 (Casa de las Américas, 2008); as well as the textbook Music in Mexico (Oxford University Press, 2012). He edited Transnational Encounters (Oxford University Press, 2011); and co-edited Experimentalisms in Practice (Oxford University Press, 2018), with Ana Alonso-Minutti and Eduardo Herrera; and Postnational Musical Identities (Lexington Books, 2007), with Ignacio Corona.

In 2017, Madrid received the Dent Medal, given by the Royal Musical Association and the International Musicological Society for “outstanding contributions to musicology.” His work has also received the Philip Brett (2018), Robert M. Stevenson (2016 and 2014), and Ruth A. Solie (2012) awards from the American Musicological Society; the Mexico Humanities Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association (2016); the Béla Bartók Award from the ASCAP Foundation (2014); the Woody Guthrie Award from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music-U.S. Branch (2009); the Casa de las Américas Musicology Award (2005); and the Samuel Claro Valdés Musicology Award (2002).

Madrid has given lectures and conducted guest seminars in the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, and Spain, and has held fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Fulbright Commission, the Ford Foundation, and Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He serves as editor of the Currents in Latin American and Iberian Music series at Oxford University Press; co-editor of Twentieth-Century Music; and on the editorial boards of Latin American Music Review, Música e Investigación (Argentina), Boletín Música (Cuba), Revista Transcultural de Música (Spain), and Aztlán. A Journal of Chicano Studies. He has served on the boards of the Society for Ethnomusicology (as First Vice-President) and the American Musicological Society (as Director-at-Large). 

Madrid is currently working on a book, Beyond the Walls of the Sounded City, about sound archives and the creation and circulation of knowledge in and about Latin America. By challenging the celebratory tone of the aural turn in cultural studies, this project proposes the notion of the Sounded City in order to interrogate how an enlightened concept such as Ciudad Letrada, which has been essential in the development of intellectual projects in the history of Latin America, continues to carry cultural valence at the intersection of today’s neoliberal reconfiguration of society and the arts in the region.

Alejandro L. Madrid was born in Houston, Texas, but grew up in Mexico. He received degrees in classical guitar performance from The Boston Conservatory (BM, cum laude, 1993) and SUNY Purchase (MFA, 1995); and in musicology from the University of North Texas (MM, 1999) and The Ohio State University (PhD, 2003). He has been a visiting researcher at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies; in Mexico at CENIDIM and El Colegio de la Frontera Norte-Tijuana; and will spend the 2022-2023 academic year as a visiting scholar at the Universität der Künste Berlin and the Instituto de Música de la Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago de Chile. Before coming to Harvard, Madrid taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Latin American and Latino Studies program for seven years and at Cornell University’s Department of Music for nine years.

Madrid is sought after as an expert commentator by national and international media outlets, including The New York TimesThe Washington Post, Agence France-Presse, Public Radio International, and Radio Uruguay (SODRE). He also acted as music advisor to Welsh filmmaker Peter Greenaway, whose film, Eisenstein in Guanajuato, is set in early 1930s Mexico.