Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Evolution of Mexican Music in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Presented by the Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies and the Embassy of Mexico

Featuring Irma Enriquez and Jacqueline Buswell

ANU School of Music

11 September

Report by Samara Purnell

The ANU hosted an evening of Mexican music on Wednesday night in a sold out event.

“The Evolution of Mexican Music in the 20th and 21st Centuries” was hosted by Dr Caroline Schuster, the incoming director of the Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies (ANCLAS).

The Ambassador of Mexico His Excellency Mr Eduardo Patricio Peña Haller was in attendance.

Mexican pianist Irma Enriquez gave an introductory talk on several Mexican composers, giving a brief overview of their musical genre, style or philosophy. This included the composers from which the evening’s program was drawn. Accompanying the talk were slides of artworks from the same eras. In the mid-20th Century, there was a move from nationalism to more eclectic and abstract forms of music. Jose Rolon, whose artistic vision was to blend European music with idioms of Mexican folklore, modern orchestral composer Arturo Marquez and Gabriela Ortiz, currently composing in Mexico, were amongst the composers named.

Enriquez was previously an Associate Professor of ANU-ANCLAS and has collaborated on projects involving the contemporary music of Mexico and Latin America. She has performed in Mexico, Spain, USA, Italy, Indonesia and Australia.

The program began with a colourful performance from the Mexican Lindo Dance Group, who has previously performed at Floriade and the Multicultural Festival. Dressed in beautifully striking, Aztec-inspired costumes and wearing huge dramatic headdresses, the upbeat performance began to the sound of a conch, played by one of the dancers. The other dancers utilized hand-held percussion and carried props of corn and a skull.

Dancer from Mexican Lindo Dance Group

This was followed by a series of short songs, sung in the native Nahuatl language by Soprano Paola Monroy, accompanied by Enriquez on piano.

Enriquez then performed “Over the Waves”, a well-known tune by J Rosas. Two pieces from Manuel M Ponce, described by Enriquez as a romantic and nationalist, were included in the program, with Estrellita (“Little Star”) sung in both Spanish and English by Monroy.

The telephone number of his girlfriend inspired the opening notes of Alfonso De Elias’ “Riddle”. De Elias was a former piano teacher of Enriquez.

Five of the eight movements of Miguel Bernal Jimenez’s “Pastels” were performed, as well as “Little turtle” by Miguel Cerna Meza.

His Excellency Mr Eduardo Patricio Peña Haller (L)
with some of the presenters and performers.
 Dr Caroline Schuster (third from left), Irma Enriquez,
Jacqueline Buswell, Paola Monroy (second from right)

This interdisciplinary event on the evolution of Mexican music aimed to show identity and multiplicity, continuity and change. The journey gave us a taste of Mexican concert music and a glimpse of the colour and rhythm of native dance.