Gerard Béhague

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Gerard H. Béhague
Béhague in 1994
Born 2 November 1937
Montpellier, France
Died 13 June 2005(2005-06-13) (aged 67)
Austin, Texas, USA
Residence Austin, Texas, USA
Citizenship France, USA
Nationality Franco-Brazilian, Franco-American
Fields Ethnomusicology, musicology,
music history
Institutions University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
University of Texas at Austin
Alma mater Tulane University
Doctoral advisor Gilbert Chase
Known for Latin American ethnomusicology;
Primary research into candomblé music

Gerard Henri Béhague (November 2, 1937 – June 13, 2005) was an eminent Franco-American ethnomusicologist and professor of Latin American music. 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, especially candomblé music. His lifelong work earned him recognition as the leading scholar of Latin American ethnomusicology.


Béhague was born in Montpellier, France and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There 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 earned a diploma from the latter (1959), a masters degree in musicology from the University of Paris (Sorbonne; 1962), and a Ph.D. in musicology from Tulane University (1966), where he studied under the noted music historian Gilbert Chase. In 1962, Béhague married Cecilia Pareja, a daughter of Ecuadorian writer and diplomat Alfredo Pareja Diezcanseco.

Béhague taught music history, American music, and Latin American music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1966 to 1974. His scholarly interests gravitated towards ethnomusicology (a new field of interdisciplinary study of music and its complex interrelationships with the cultures that produce it). He ultimately started a program there in Latin American ethnomusicology which is currently maintained by one of his protégés, former UT Austin student Robin Moore.

Béhague joined the School of Music faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in 1974, his permanent academic position, where he was instrumental in establishing the graduate program in ethnomusicology. At UT Austin, he served as chairman of the Department of Music (1980–89), as Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Endowed Professor in Music (1985–2005) and as Virginia L. Murchison Endowed Regents Professor of Fine Arts (1995–2005). He died of lung cancer on June 13, 2005.


Béhague was recognized during his later life as the leading scholar of Latin American ethnomusicology. He was particularly well known for his research on the music of Brazil, which he studied both as a music historian and as an ethnomusicologist. He served (1969–77) as associate editor of the Yearbook for Inter-American Musical Research, and as editor (1974–78) of the journal Ethnomusicology. In 1980 he founded, and subsequently edited, the Latin American Music Review, a journal drawing together academics from all of the Americas to publish in three languages. He was president of the Society for Ethnomusicology (1979–81) and served on the board of directors of several other professional associations.

He trained several of the well-known Latin Americanist ethnomusicologists active today both in the United States and Latin America, and he researched and published extensively on various aspects of this field. He published two edited volumes, and two books of his own, Music in Latin America: An Introduction (1979), and Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Search for Brazil's Musical Soul (1994).

Honors and accolades[edit]



  • Béhague, Gerard H. (1979), Music in Latin America: An Introduction, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
  • Béhague, Gerard H. (1992), Music and Black Ethnicity: The Caribbean and South America, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Béhague, Gerard H. (1994), Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Search for Brazil's Musical Soul, Austin, Texas: ILAS Monographs, UT Press.



The Gerard Béhague and Everett Helm Latin American Sheet Music Collection, 1917-1969,[2] is housed at the Sousa Archives and Center for World Music. This collection consists of Brazilian sheet music from the period, ca. 1915-1945, and popular Argentine sheet music from the same time period, as well as popular Cuban sheet music from the 1960s. The sheet music was purchased by the University of Illinois at the request of Béhague, who used it for his research.