Introduction

In November 2014, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Cuba: ostensibly to attend the Festival de La Habana de M├║sica Contempor├ínea (Havana Contemporary Music Festival), where two of my chamber works were to be performed—but moreover, por supuesto, to explore a place that remains, for most of us norteamericanos, so shrouded in mystery, in certain ways even vilified, that an entire people, and their breathtakingly rich culture, can feel to us a taboo.

Knowing in what great detail I would want to report back to friends and family, and moreover to freeze-frame each confounding moment for myself, I kept this travelogue throughout my eight days in Havana. It aspires neither to comprehensive cultural nor political commentary, nor to anything beyond one visitor’s experience. It will surely feel both overly verbose and hopelessly inadequate.

My work was programmed as part of a set of music by American composers, representing the American Composers Forum. My colleagues—composers Carol Barnett, Mary Ellen Childs, and Sage Lewis, and John Nuechterlein, President of ACF—were unfortunately unable to make the trip, leaving me to attend as a delegation of one, a prospect that inspired anxiety and exhilaration in equal measure. Sage, a frequent traveler to Havana, acted as the primary liaison between the Forum and the Festival. My flying 
solo was made immensely easier by his advance help, advice, and infinite patience for my stupid questions.