Tania Leon’s Stride

A Polyrhythmic Life
Author: Alejandro L. Madrid
A new biography of the classical music artist
Cloth – $110
Paper – $24.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/18/2022
Cloth: 01/18/2022
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About the Book

Acclaimed composer, sought-after conductor, esteemed educator, tireless advocate for the arts--Tania Leon’s achievements encompass but also stretch far beyond contemporary classical music. Alejandro L. Madrid draws on oral history, archival work, and ethnography to offer the first in-depth biography of the artist. Breaking from a chronological account, Madrid looks at Leon through the issues that have informed and defined moments in her life and her professional works. Leon’s words become a starting ground--but also a counterpoint--to the accounts of the people in her orbit. What emerges is more than an extraordinary portrait of an artist's journey. It is a story of how a human being reacts to the challenges thrown at her by history itself, be it the Cuban revolution or the struggle for civil and individual rights.

Nuanced and multifaceted, Tania Leon's Stride looks at the life, legacy, and milieu that created and sustained one of the most important figures in American classical music.

* Publication supported by a commission from Brandon Fradd and The Newburgh Institute for the Arts and Ideas, and by a grant from the General Fund of the American Musicological Society, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About the Author

Alejandro L. Madrid is a professor of music at Harvard University. He is the author of the award-winning In Search of Julián Carrillo and Sonido 13 and coauthor of Danzon: Circum-Caribbean Dialogues in Music and Dance.


"Highly recommended." --Choice

"Madrid's biographical counterpoint masterfully portrays the polyrhythmic life of Tania Leon. His use of photos and personal interviews vividly tells Leon's life story. The prevalence of this intimacy adds flavor -- a taste of memoir -- inviting readers to devour the book like linear notes. The juxtaposition of firsthand accounts with historical context and political drama creates a page turner -- a biography containing strides that many outside of music will find illuminating." --Notes

"The story Madrid tells is not only coherent, but also captivating, opening new avenues of scholarly inquiry about Léon's life, work, and the worlds she has inhabited. I look forward to seeing those kernels sprout in different and unexpected directions and develop into still more fascinating narratives." --Journal for the International Alliance of Women in Music

"Tania Leon's Stride is a thoughtful and inclusive biography of the composer and conductor, and provides a unique context to her life and work. Madrid's text is a rich addition to the scholarship of contemporary music as it continues to lift Leon's voice to more conversations, deeper study, and the increased performances that these works deserve." --Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

"This books is well conceived, well written, and a great companion text to Robin Moore's books on Cuban music. . . . A major contribution to the scholarship of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Latin women composers and musicians, but also transcends these categories by showing how a woman of color navigated exile and migration to make a new life while maintaining her identity and growing personally and artistically." --New West Indian Guide


"There is incredible beauty and power in the way this book attends to aesthetics and artists with rigor and care. What sets it apart are Madrid's stunning interviews conducted over several years with Leon and her family, peers, and students. An essential document about an extraordinary artist."--Alexandra T. Vazquez, author of Listening in Detail: Performances of Cuban Music

"Alejandro L. Madrid is one of the leading musicologists of our time working on contemporary classical and experimental music, and his wide-ranging narrative on the life and works of the composer, pianist, and conductor Tania Leon perfectly matches her cosmopolitan outlook and incisive creative practice. Leon knew and worked with many of the leading cultural figures of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and Madrid’s intricate 'contrapuntal' dialogue with his subject shows in exquisite detail how and why Tania Leon has exercised an incalculable impact on the expressive culture of our time."--George E. Lewis, author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music


•  Bronze Medal, Best Biography in English, International Latin Book Awards, 2022
• Honorable Mention, Portia K. Maultsby Prize, The Society for Ethnomusicology, 2022