Musical Archives in Mexico City, Tepotzotlan and Puebla

October 1, 1967

This paper was read originally at the ninth annual meeting of the Society held in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 26-28, 1966. It was part of a Triple Session with The American Musicological Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology entitled
Inter-American Musical Research.

The other papers in that session were The Lundu and Modinha of Brazil in the Nineteenth Century by Gerard Béhague and Tepehua Thought-Songs by Charles L. Boiles. Summaries of their papers also appear in SYMPOSIUM Volume 7.

The purpose of the paper concerning Mexican archives was to acquaint the membership of the three societies with the cataloguing-microfilming project, as well as to demonstrate the interest and caliber of the content of Mexican archives. With the greater accessibility of the material, the need for transcribing and performing was emphasized.

In the Cathedral of Mexico archive alone there are close to three hundred composers represented of which about half resided in Mexico. The microfilms for that archive number about one hundred rolls. The archive at Puebla is more modest but contains earlier material. Both cathedrals hold a large number of canto llano tomes which have been unexplored previously. The smaller Tepotzotlan collection was originally in the Cathedral of Mexico and is especially important for the polyphonic volumes which for some time were thought to be lost.

Painters of some of the illuminations have been identified, Luis Lagarto (fl. 1600) being the most important. The style of the polyphonic music shows strong renaissance influence down to the mid-18th century, but the baroque style emerges a bit earlier in the villancico. The characteristic "Mexican" style, whether of renaissance influence or baroque, shows characteristics which are not slavish imitations of European models but have elements of rhythmic and harmonic interest, of originality and imagination which gives the music an intriguing and fascinating character of its own. "A la milagrosa escuela de Pedro" by Ignacio Jerusalem is a good example of the baroque style, with touches of rococo, and a harmonic originality and rhythmic drive which makes the music quite remarkable. The renaissance influence is well seen in the music of the able composer Joseph de Agurto y Loaysa.

A full report will shortly be published with the list of composers revised in accordance with our most recent findings. The Pan American Union has requested permission to publish the catalogue. The films are available in the United States at the Gaylord Music Library, Washington University, St. Louis; the original negatives are in the Biblioteca Nacional de Antropologia e Historia in the new Museo de Antropologia, Mexico, D.F.

(Summary prepared by Lincoln Spiess)

2862 Last modified on April 17, 2018