"Every Mexican is a musician himself".
Music and dances are part of the everyday life in Mexico.
Central American people learned and perpetuated their history with
songs. Until the Spanish prohibited it, they sang about their tribes,
stars, Gods, hunting, love and future. The Spanish refrained from
transcribing the words of these songs « full of diabolical
stuff », as the missionaries said. And, for the same reason,
the traditional dances were not allowed because they were always
accompanied with music.
These songs always had lyrics : the most common instruments were
the flute, whistle, drums and other percussion instruments, any
kind of trumpet and the rattle. These instruments were different
from the ones we design with the same names because they were made
of sea shells, deer bones or terra cotta. The oldest one dates from
at least 1500 BC. The teponaztli, a big round drum, accompanied
the dances. The huehuetl, another drum, could reach 1.20 m (4 feet)
high. It was played vertically. It was made from a big hollowed
log and a stretched skin on top. It was often skillfully carved
or painted with bright colors.
The whistles made of bamboo, terra cotta, bones or wood were carved
or modeled in dog, monkey or bird shapes or such as Gods. The carapace
of the sea turtle gave a percussion instrument called the ayotl,
widespread in the whole country during the classic time. On the
eastern coast, the same kinds of drums were carved and painted,
sometimes covered with gold.
They also made painted and adorned rattles from gourds. We could
excuse the Spanish for not being sensible to the pentatonic music
of the Aztecs but they at least could have appreciated one of the
flutes with its two or three mouthpieces and a sixteen tones range.
The contemporary Mexican musicians gladly use pieces of Pre-Hispanic
music in their works.
Manuel Ponce (born in 1886) studied in Italy and in Berlin before
staying in Paris (from 1925 to 1933). Then he went to Mexico to
teach musical folklore at the University of Mexico
City. He also headed the National Conservatory in Mexico
Silvestre Revueltas (born in 1889), at the head of the Symphonic
Orchestra of Mexico City, became famous
in Europe in 1937. He owes his notoriety to hi film music.
Rodolfo Halffter, born in Madrid in 1900, became a Mexican citizen
Ana Zakalow settled the choreography of her most famous ballet "Don
Lindo de America".
Carlos Chavez (born in 1899), was, in 1928, at the origin of the
creation of the Orchestra of the Union of Musicians inside the National
Orchestra. He conducted this orchestra more than twenty seasons
in a row, until he left in 1948. He composed several ballets, including
"Los Cuatro Soles" and "La Hija de Colquide".
Blas Galindo-Dimas (born in 1910) joins the National Conservatory
of Music in 1931. During 1941-1942, he studied composition in the
USA with Aaron Copland. Its abundant catalogue of works includes
symphonies, chamber music and arrangements for the chorus of popular
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