Mexican Composers in the Musical Cannon

The term cannon is used very broadly in the music world today. For a long period of time, the term was used to only encompass Western Music, however, as society progresses music from other countries are included. Mexican Music struggled to find a place in the musical cannon for various reasons including understanding and finding it’s own identity separate from that of Western Europe. So exactly how did the standard cannon begin to change? How was it that “other music” (specifically Mexican) was finally allotted its rightful place? With the ability to find its own natural design, Mexican composers would eventually find a place in the musical cannon.


“Mexico occupies a peripheral position within Western culture, a position brought about not only by the legacy of its colonial past but by the particular characteristics of its history as an independent nation. It is from such a position that Mexican cultural agents establish a relationship with the Western metropolises (in both real and imaginary realms); that relationship itself inevitably is marked by an on-going tension between the processes of assimilation and resistance. This peripheral condition has repercussions on the manner in which Mexican music is made and talked about, repercussions that have thus far not been considered and formulated.”


Central European naturalism and bourgeois faith in science led to the importance that Western culture places on the idea of organicism as an aesthetic value. It is a quality most valued in German-speaking countries; therefore these countries played a huge role in the selection of the musical cannon. Western music has a uniformity in its development and as a result there is an inheritance of masterpieces that are recognized as universal. For years, Mexican composers were expected to compose in the Western style until the awakening of nationalism that came with the Mexican Revolution. During the eighteenth century the role of music in European society shifted, focusing on the historic and thus cannon formation changed. For the first time, the cohabitation of multiple musical cannons were tolerated.


With newfound tolerance, other musics were accepted into the musical cannon. With the awakening of Mexican nationalism and the adoption of national identity, Mexican music has developed its own organicism. I find it interesting that the moment Mexican composers stopped attempting to mimic and duplicate Western European music, that is when their music was accepted into the musical cannon. Once it had its own flow of organicism, the music of the Mexican culture was embraced by other cultures. I believe this is proof that choosing imitation over what is natural will present difficulties. Organicism and being true to ones own culture can only lead to overall satisfaction.


  • Jamille Brewster




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