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The university. Programs we explore the culture of these programs or police department and the Center for Culture at the university. And now you are Tom Stanford assistant professor in the U.S. Department of music and John Fryman. Tom would you begin today by giving us a recap of what we talked about last week in the way of the history of the music of Mexico and how this will affect the
programs in the following series. Well we started out by talking about the beginnings of European music in Mexico about the climate which the Spaniards found in Mexico which was favorable towards the cultivation of European music. And we tried to give an idea of the height of this musical culture the height attained in the 17th and 18th centuries especially with all of this with a purpose of giving an insight into the reason why there is so much regional music in Mexico at the present day. And you said that today we would explore the music of Chiapas. So would you set a geographic stage for us what your purpose is the southernmost state in Mexico on the Pacific coast. It borders with Guatemala the highlands of that state comprise the largest area in Mexico which is inhabited by
monolingual Indians. It has been said that the study medieval traditions and medieval customs in Spain perhaps the highlands of Chiapas are the best place in the world start with something on the order of a half a million Indians who speak the two principal Indian languages of the state of Chiapas so it seal and sell which are languages related to my yeah. Why is it that in this area these European traditions have been conserved whereas in other areas they have disappeared. Well I think that probably the reason is twofold. First of all there are a large number of members in the Indian group. And second of all there's an almost complete absence of mestizos as a say of of members of the central cultural tradition in Mexico within that region. Perhaps you had better actually define the term Mestizo. Well my state's always taken in Mexico to mean a mixture of
Indian and European. It's it's a larger culture group in Mexico. It's the tradition which you will find in the larger cities like Mexico City or Guadalajara. I believe that the theme music we use on this program is from that area is it not. Yes it's the music of the procession of the old Ferris in the town of tiny happen Chiapas. I played with flute and trumpet accompaniment of drum. This is the sort of music perhaps which might have been used in the 18th century for the religious processions when they take the saints out of the churches on an important feast day and make a turn to the principal streets of the town with their incense burners and the musicians at the head of the procession. I think many of us would wonder did you actually take your
equipment out into the area with a portable generator to get these recordings. Yes this particular region in the highlands of Chiapas I was carrying a portable power plant around in a jeep. And I was using. A Grundig tape recorder. I did not at that time have the sophisticated equipment which is available to me at the present time as a matter of fact such equipment wasn't even available on the market plan. What then is our first selection for today and how does it. What is its importance with the others coming. Well the first selection today is the music of the mire though most have seen a con done Chiapas This is the music played by a violin guitar and harp a special type of Indian guitar as a matter of fact all these instruments are of Indian manufacture. It's a
10 string guitar and rather a large size. The three musicians saying in a high falsetto and in a rather curious tone of voice invoking the Saints presence in the Fiesta in celebration in this case it was a fiesta of San sebastián 20 of the 20th of January. This music its seems to me sounds as if it might have had a composer somewhere along the line. It turns out that in many parts of Mexico. Colonial church music was still in use as recently as 1939. So I think that perhaps that is a possibility here though the musicians themselves have no such recollection. We can then proceed to the first selection.
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Tom Up to now our music has been concerned with situations in which the music and I suppose a musicians were contracted for by church groups or other agencies. How does this pertain to our next election today. My next selection represents the type of music which seems to exist in most of Latin America. It's probably a pretty Hispanic musical type which I have called personal music as personal music very generally sings about love or something having to do with courtship and marriage. However in this particular region in the highlands of chop us it doesn't seem to take this form. It's a type of music which pertains to the saints and to the celebration in progress. But it is music which is the domain of every individual in the Indian community.
There apparently is no Indian within these communities that doesn't feel that he is able to sing and to play this music of course some people sing and play with more or less art. But everyone will without the least quality. Turnout in the plaza during the celebrations and drink and celebrate singing this music. You know when you say everyone you mean possibly every member of an entire family will be there. Well the children do not normally enter into this. However young man do it and occasionally you'll even see women young women very rarely but older women yes those music is sung in a ceremonial state of drunkenness. It's it seems that for some reason or other this ceremonial drunkenness is basic to the to the performance of this music and it will not
be performed except in a drunken state. We might proceed to this particular selection which was sung with the motive of the festive sign alone song and Tenney happened Chiapas. It's sung with the accompaniment of a large Indian guitar. Is this the same type of guitar as on the previous recording. Yes it's a 10 string guitar but it's larger. You're. You're.
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Tom on our list of selections I see that the next one is entitled music of the Tigers and Negroes. That is a provocative combination and perhaps it could warrant some further explanation. Yes the tiger has been an important symbol in Indian mythology in Indian belief in Mexico. This second section of the next selection is the so-called bottom Shawn which is quite famous in Mexico. It's been translated as the tiger dance. Actually the Indian roots in this word are Balon which means tiger and Shaun which means serpent. It is a tiger serpent. The negroes are a very common element in Mexican dance. It is matter of fact in the before the Conquest and at the time of the conquest it was commented that most Indian dancers blacken their faces they were the negroes negroes are usually clowns in the Indian
dances and very often they parody. What the more ceremonial dancers are doing with rather hilarious results. This particular selection is accompanied by a violin and guitar. The guitar the style guitar playing reminds one of the fact that in the 16th century the Indians heard the guitar as a kind of a drum. I think you can understand this concept in the style of playing with the so-called RA scale hitting the strings with the fingers of the hand. The violin the guitar evidently in two different keys simultaneously and this is no accident. As many times as I recorded the selection I found it to be the same. The final section is the Diana which is used to and number of Mexican dances for example a Mexican hobby. It's used here to conclude
the dance. These are selections that we hear they sound so extemporaneous in nature as we hear the recordings. If one were to analyze it musically would you find that the same notation would appear over again if you were to hear that music played a second time. Yes there's always an element of improvisation but there are certain formulas which are very rigorously followed. I learned to play the guitar in this particular selection and was able to verify personally the fact there is no element of chance as far as the rhythms the complicated rhythms and harmonies are concerned. All right then let's hear the music of the Tigers in the negro's.
It could be. Tom you mentioned that the performer on the next recording is the town president. This is the town president Tony happy to chop us. He was I think one of the finer musicians that I found in the zone in their performance of what I have called personal music. I hear he's singing a group of selections a kind of a medley of songs from different towns in the region of the highlands of Chiapas. Let me ask something right here. In speaking of personal music as we have several times today is this music improvised to a great extent on the spot or is much of it very customary and is passed from father to
son through many years. Well I think that there are both elements present here there are elements which are traditional There are elements which are for example a series of positions used on the guitar which you'll find don't vary from one musician to another. The rhythms as far as text is concerned is to some extent. I improvised but following models that have existed previously. It's not a completely original creation as a rule. I would think that possibly a drunken state that you spoken of would lean somewhat to creativity at the time when. Well maybe so but though you find musicians who will sing in a you know totally lost state of drunkenness you might say by and large it is what I've said previously a ceremonial drunkenness because it seems that
like the drinking of liquor is part of the ceremony and it should not in any way hinder the musician in me a performance of his or his obligations as far as the society the Indian society sees them. This song was showing the deer in its different sections that he has some sampling of the types of formulas melodic and harmonic formulas which are found among some of the neighboring towns. There's regional variation. You know this personal music is also characteristic of the different dances. It's characteristic of Latin American music and evidently to some extent of even Spanish music among the provinces and Spain. It's possible to identify the singer and the performer on the basis of the traits of the song and the music that he performs.
Right. We spoken to the extreme personal nature of this music. What about the instruments themselves to the people themselves make these instruments. Yes these instruments that we've been hearing are largely instruments that that the mestizos themselves had maybe 50 years ago or at the present time because they're no longer available. Mesti So markets there are manufactured by Indians and especially Indians in one county of the highlands of chop us the money CPO they place on one show I'm outta these instruments are. Carried to the farthest corners of this is on and sold by the so-called charm more of us. Now the
instruments have all the guitars have a large number of strings they're descendants of the so-called Septima of the seven course guitar which could have anywhere from seven strings to usual maximum of 14. I'm fascinated by how my five fingered men can play a 14 string guitar. Well the fact the matter is that the the strings are paired or sometimes or even three instrument three strings in a group that's to say that these two or three strings are fingered as if they were one bases but there are actually a number of string sounding on the same pitch. So we have another program in Chiapas. Yes the next program will start with a procession from the new Stana Katic and such Yop us with two different musics running simultaneously along with let in the sun by the parishioners. The bell the sacristan bull roars from the choir loft will hear a mestizo
Bolero will hear a medley of sourness mestizo dances from the Highlands and end up with a romantic song. That is a production of communication center the University of Texas at Austin selection of music and commentary in this series are under the supervision of Tom Stanford assistant professor in the department of the interviewer is John Fein field recordings are drawn from the sound archives of the Mexican National Museum of Anthropology and the Center for intercultural study in folklore and oral history at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Musica Popular Mexicana
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Other Description
Musica Popular Mexicana is a series of programs which explores traditional regional music and dance forms of Mexico, with a special emphasis given to the history and culture of the Mexican people. Each episode focuses on specific regions and forms, with commentary from Mexican musicology expert Thomas Stanford. The program is produced in cooperation with the Department of Music and the Center for Intercultural Studies in Folklore and Oral History at the University of Texas Austin, and is distributed by the National Education Radio Network. Sound recordings are provided by the Center for Intercultural Studies as well as the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-26-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:30
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Chicago: “Musica Popular Mexicana; 2,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 20, 2022,
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APA: Musica Popular Mexicana; 2. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from