Gerard H. Behague; Studied, Wrote About Latin Music

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Gerard H. Behague, 67, a prolific scholar of Latin American ethnomusicology and a professor in the School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin, died June 13 of lung cancer at Christopher House, an Austin hospice.

He was the author of many articles and several books, including "Music in Latin America: An Introduction" (1979) and "Hector Villa-Lobos: The Search for Brazil's Musical Soul" (1994). His specialty was the music of Brazil and the Andean countries and the influence of West Africa on the music of the Caribbean and South America.

In 1980, he founded and subsequently edited the Latin American Music Review, a journal that provides a forum for academics from throughout the Americas to publish in three languages. He also established the graduate program in ethnomusicology at the University of Texas and was a mentor to Latin American music scholars around the world.

Dr. Behague was born in Montpellier, France, and grew up in Rio de Janeiro, where he studied piano, music theory and composition at the National School of Music of the University of Brazil and the Brazilian Conservatory of Music. He received a master's degree in musicology at the Sorbonne in Paris and a PhD in musicology from Tulane University in 1966.

He began his career as a professor of musicology in 1966 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, teaching music history, American music and Latin American music.

His scholarly interests gradually shifted to the interdisciplinary study of music and its complex interrelationship with the cultures that produce it, the field known as ethnomusicology.

He became a member of the music faculty at the University of Texas in 1974 and served as chairman of the Department of Music from 1980 to 1989. In 1991, he was named the Virginia L. Murchison Endowed Regents Professor of Fine Arts.

An engaging teacher and an indefatigable scholar and world traveler, the debonair professor loved being a part of the music he studied, whether listening to Brazilian pop music or dancing to Latin rhythms at festive backyard parties he and his wife often hosted at their Austin home.

Deeply attached to Brazil, he was inducted into the Brazilian Academy of Music in 1994. In 1997, the Brazilian government awarded him the title of Commander of the Order of Rio Banco in recognition of his work in Brazilian music studies.

Survivors include his wife of 43 years, Cecilia Behague of Austin; two children; and a grandson.

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