A Nationalist Perspective on Revueltas’s “Colorines”

By Edwin Cordoba

I listened to Revuelta’s symphonic poem, Colorines, with as open of a mind as I could possibly have. Knowing his Nationalist tendencies, I couldn’t help but identify and associate the different musical textures of the poem with the cocktail of influences in Mexican society.

It opens with a harsh combination of percussion instruments playing what sounds to me like pre-columbian native American rhtyhms. Xylophone and various instruments interrupt with short, seemingly random interjections- reminiscient of the animal calls of the native fauna. Then the first musical moment occurs: a layered collage that includes a violin ostinato, various meldoies in the winds (which are passed from section to section continuously), various interjections from muted brass, and a continuation of the opening percussion textures. The melodies remain tonal, yet non-traditional. The piece proceeds with a modal melody that occurs between the flute, clarinet and trumpet in tight harmony. It develops by adding sections of the orchestra until it becomes a cacophonous combitionation of elements, ending abruptly. The trombone glissando introduces the slow second section of the piece- a yearning, mournful, modal yet beautiful effort by the orchestra woodwinds. It ends in a very easily decipherable imperfect authentic candence. The piece then returns to the formula of the opening section: a layered collage of an ostinato (this time in the percussion) and short modal wind melodies and random interjections from other sections occuring simultaneously. The conclusion of the piece ends as abrubtly as it begins.

After listening to the piece, the form is an evident ABA form- and like mentioned earlier, it seems to reflect Revuelta’s Nationalist tedencies by providng us with a uniquely Mexican experience. Interestingly, Colorines had a more positive reception by audiences than his more atonal works such as Ventanas and Esquinas. This is due in part to the piece’s use of western-derived traditional elements (lyricism, an ABA structure). I believe that by incorporating these elements, Revuelta’s did not just create a piece that was more accessible to audiences, but also exemplified his own defition of Nationalism. Instead of trying to get as far away from Western Traditional music- instead of decolonizing- Revueltas proved that Mexico as a society is a collage of many different influences.


Aguirre-Lora, María Esther. “Revuelo entre los músicos académicos: los primeros congresos nacionales de música (1926, 1928).” Revista Iberoamericana de Educación Superior 7, no. 20 (2016).

Mayer-Serra, Otto. “Silvestre Revueltas and Musical Nationalism in Mexico.” The Musical Quarterly 27, no. 2 (1941): 123-45. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/739461.

Revueltas: una música de naturaleza impura. An. Inst. Investig. Estét [online]. 2013, vol.35, n.103, pp.9-34. ISSN 0185-1276.

Robert Stevenson. “Revueltas, Silvestre.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed February 6, 2017, http://0-www.oxfordmusiconline.com.lib.utep.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/23289.


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