Mexican Vernacular and Cultivated Music during the Revolution

Mexican music during the years of the revolution was sometimes intentionally political and sometimes implicitly political, but always reflected broader social and economic turmoil in Mexican society.

Fighting to emerge as an enlarged bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeoisie of Mexico during the Revolutionary years (1910-1920) was confronted with the problem of having to contain the forces of organized peasants and workers.

The corrido was a waltz-style of song that did a good job of narrating socially relevant topics of the proletariat (oppression, current events, political protest, etc.).  Although corridos originated a long time before the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Mexican Revolution paved the way for a new collection of corridos. The politics of this music is self-evident, as corridos often explicitly denounced politicians and movements.  These corridos were often looked down upon by the bourgeoisie for their criticism, but the fact that these were communicated through an oral tradition allowed them to survive and thrive. Indeed, their spread amongst the proletariat was what enabled activism and the beginning of the revolution.

Another example of Mexican-native music that originated during these times with an equally political intention is music that originated from cultivated composers. Julian Carrillo, a composer/conductor/violinist/music theorist- was famous for developing a theory of microtonal music that he called “Sonido 13” (The Thirteenth Sound). He was born in San Luis Potosi, studied abroad at the Leipzig Royal Conservatory and returned to Mexico to help vanguard performance of music of living composers in Mexico. He, like many teachers, professionals, and artists that were not interested in fighting in the Revolutionary war, fled to the United States when Victoriano Huerta’s government failed. While in New York, Carillo developed his “Thirteenth Sound Theory”- which was often dismissed by the status quo. Just like the leftists revolutionaries of the war (Francisco Madero, Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, to name a few), Carrillo rejected the establishment. His development as a musician and emigration is a reflection of the Mexican government’s inability to support it’s professional class. Indeed, his avant-guard music would have been a hard sell to a public starving and facing the realities of war.

Looking at these two examples (Corridos and Carillo) it is clear that Mexico developed two kinds of music during the revolutionary war- music of the vernacular tradition and music of the cultivated tradition. Vernacular- referring to music that was developed in an indigenous folksong setting- can be exemplified by the corridos of the time. Conversely, Carillo’s music is an example of the cultivated- music that exists for its own intrinsic qualities. They reflect political turmoil with drastically different methods, have two totally different intended audiences, and subsequently sound differently. However, they both originate and reflect a strong message against the political establishment of Mexico.

Edwin Cordoba


Battisti, Frank L. 2002. The winds of change: the evolution of the contemporary American wind band/ensemble and its conductor. Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications.

Benjamin, Gerald R. “Julian Carrillo and “Sonido Trece” (“Dedicated to the Memory of Nabor Carrillo”).” Anuario 3 (1967): 33-68. doi:10.2307/779745.

GONZALEZ, Aurelio. “¿ Cómo Vive El Corrido Mexicano ? ¿ Quién Canta Corridos ? ¿ Quiénes Cantaron Corridos ?” Caravelle (1988-), no. 51 (1988): 23-30.

PARRA, Max. “Pancho Villa Y El Corrido De La Revolución.” Caravelle (1988-), no. 88 (2007): 139-49.

“Carrillo, Julián.” The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd ed. rev.. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed January 30, 2017,




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s