Mexican Music: A True Canon of Music History

Edwin Cordoba

Music is an organic discipline.The study of its history cannot be viewed under a single lense- it must be considered through a kaleidescope of perspectives. After reading Bolgman’s thoughts on the canonization of music and Saavedra’s dissertaion on Mexican music in it’s place against dominant musics- I have been able to formulate a simple conlcusion for the semester: Mexican Music is valid and constititues a true contribution to music canon.

Saavedra’s dissertation, “Of Selves and Others: Histiography, Ideology and the Politics of Modern Music.” suggests that Mexican Music History follows a different sequence to the traditional “German Idealist” music history that we know. She suggests that there exist a series of fractures, ruptures and discontinuities regarding the deveopent of Mexican media, forms and styles. I liken Mexican music history to the study of geology- specifically the study of the relative age of rocks. Taking a vertical drill sample of the ground won’t always reveal rocks that are older the lower you get. Often times, there exist disruptions in the environment (erosion, techtonic movement, volcanicism) that result in a mixing of new and old rocks in a vertical sample.

One of Saavedra’s biggest arguments is that the development of Mexican Music History post 1920’s was a deliberate motion on behalf of the Nationalists (particularly Carlos Chavez). Aboriginal music was “Reincarnated” by the natoinalists- albeit, not always necessarily to its most accurate capacity- and created a feedback effect in scholarship. Composers and musicologists produced new sources that reinforced this view of aboriginal music as the source of inspiration- thus further infroming further scholarship and critical assessments!

When comparing Meixcan music history within “universal” music (“universal” meaning msuic that can be critiqued based on euro-german values), historians found that there is no similarities between styles, works, and instrumental media chosen by Mexicans than from their European counterparts. Critics of Mexican music (critics that want to discredit Mexican music for not following these values), therefore, have no validity- since their values are different than the values of Mexican Music.

To understand the true values from which to critique Mexican music, we must understand a few truths. Musical culture of Mexico exhibits either a resistance/lack of nterest in actively occupying a place in Western culture or (b) a conscious search for a sense of belonging that frequently has been embodied in a desire to “catch up”. Qualities compounded by changing alliegence to dominant musical cultures in Europe/affected by academic discourses on history of music. Mexican Nationalism is (1) an inevitable transition, although late, to a stage of that always appears in the development of the music; and (2) an ideological musical event to which all previous efforts were headed. Thus, Mexican nationalism is the enevitable awakening of a collective essence (with polical revolution 1910-1921).

It occupies a space (although marginally) in the narrative of “universal” music!

Bohlman, with his belief “Musicologies” and the idea of the plural musics ties into this idea of Mexican music having a place within Saavedra’s “universal” music. I believe that Mexican music, with it’s unique history and features- occupies a place in the “universal” music canon.


2 thoughts on “Mexican Music: A True Canon of Music History

  1. fnewberry says:

    Wow Edwin, your Geology analogy is right on the Money. I tried to do the same with Evolutionary Biology but I think yours actually works better. You distilled alot of truth into a short blog, bravo!


    • Edwin says:

      Thanks, Flora! You always have SUCH insightful metaphors and thoughts, as well. Thanks for reading/commenting 🙂


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