• Steven Barwick
Part of the Man & Music book series (MAMU)


In 1523 the first Franciscan friars to reach Mexico landed at what is now Veracruz to begin their monumental task of converting the Indians to Christianity. They found a people subdued by battle, yet one in whose lives music and dance played a highly important role. The reports of early missionaries tell of the wide use of music, in war, sacrificial ceremonies and funeral rites as well as Montezuma’s dinner music.


Mexico City Sixteenth Century Early Colonial Funeral Rite Early Missionary 
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  1. An excellent survey of early music in Mexico may be found in G. Béhague, Music in Latin America: an Introduction (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1979).Google Scholar
  2. Both sacred and secular music of the colonial period are treated concisely but authoritatively. Music examples contribute to a clear understanding of the text, and the bibliographical notes after Chapter 1 are well chosen. R. Stevenson, Music in Aztec and Inca Territory (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1968) is especially valuable for more detailed pre-colonial and early colonial information. The portion dealing with Mexico occupies about two-thirds of the book, and the inclusion of transcriptions of two sixteenth-century Aztecan apostrophes to the Virgin illustrates a type of Indian composition often cited in the writings of early chroniclers. There is also a 30-page bibliography.Google Scholar
  3. The pioneer works in the field are M. Galindo, Naciones de historia de la música mejicana (Colima, 1933),Google Scholar
  4. G. Saldívar, Historia de la música en México (épocas pre-cortesiana y colonial) (Mexico City, 1934). The latter is divided into three sections -’Indigenous Music’, ‘European Music in Mexico’ and ‘Popular Music’ — and Saldívar made good use of his privileged access to both governmental and ecclesiastical archives. S. Barwick, Sacred Vocal Polyphony in Early Colonial Mexico (diss., Harvard U., 1949), the first extensive study of the subject in English, has a separate volume of transcriptions from sources in Mexico City and Puebla.Google Scholar
  5. G. Chase, The Music of Spain (New York, 1941, 2/1959), in the chapter ‘Hispanic Music in the Americas’,Google Scholar
  6. R. Stevenson, Spanish Cathedral Music in the Golden Age (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1961), speak of the transplantation of Spanish sacred music to the New World, and they are useful in studying the European background of the period. For a serious and comprehensive study of what early missionaries found in Mexico when they used music in converting the Indians,Google Scholar
  7. C. Braden, Religious Aspects of the Conquest of Mexico (Durham, North Carolina, 1930), is worthwhile.Google Scholar
  8. S. Marti, La música precortesiana — Music before Cortes (Mexico City, 1971, rev. 2/1978 by G. Nilsson as Música precolombina — Music before Columbus, is a 95-page, beautifully and generously illustrated monograph on Aztec instruments.Google Scholar
  9. R. Stevenson, Music in Mexico: a Historical Survey (New York, 1952), is an important early study, although the author has updated his material elsewhere over the years.Google Scholar
  10. L. B. Spiess and E. T. Stanford, An Introduction to Certain Mexican Musical Archives (Detroit, 1969), contains valuable bibliography, lists of sources and composers and a music supplement of transcriptions and photographs by Stanford. Because more information concerning music in colonial Mexico has been slowly uncovered for some time now, one finds the most recent data in articles in periodicals such as the Yearbook for Inter-American Musical Research, the Latin American Music Review, the Inter-American Music Review (see especially ix, (1987)), the Hispanic American Historical Review, The Americas, Anales (of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) and the Musical Quarterly.Google Scholar
  11. The writers include R. Stevenson, L. Brothers, A. R. Catalyne, E. T. Stanford, G. Chase and S. Barwick. Pertinent material can also be found in the Cambridge History of Latin America, ii, ed. L. Bethell (Cambridge, 1984), and in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Latin America and the Caribbean, ed. S. Collier and T. Skidmore (Cambridge, 1992)Google Scholar
  12. The following volumes consist of early colonial sacred music from Mexico in modern transcriptions: El Códice del Convento del Carmen, ed. J. Bal y Gay (Mexico City, 1952); The Franco Codex of the Cathedral of Mexico, ed. S. Barwick (Carbondale, 1965); Christmas Music from Baroque Mexico, ed. R. Stevenson (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1974); Latin American Colonial Music Anthology, ed. idem (Washington, DC, 1975); and Two Mexico City Choirbooks of 1717: an Anthology of Sacred Polyphony from the Cathedral of Mexico (Carbondale, 1982). Also, A. R. Catalyne, The Double-Choir Music of Juan de Padilla, Seventeenth-Century Composer in Mexico (diss., U. of Southern California, 1953), includes copious transcriptions.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1993

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  • Steven Barwick

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