Alejandro L. Madrid’s new book, Music in Mexico, is the latest in Oxford University Press’ 25 volume Global Music Series and promises to become a definitive tome on Mexican music and how it has influenced Mexican and U.S. culture.
Each book in the Global Music Series comes with a CD to accompany the text and includes translations of the songs featured in the volume. Music in Mexico is more of a musician, or ethnographer’s textbook than a straight out documentary with music CDs. Music in Mexico is one of the accompanying texts to Thinking Musically, the mother text, if you will, that sets up readers to explore the practice of music around the world.
The Houston-born Madrid did not just walk into putting this Music in Mexico together for the Oxford series. Madrid is an Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois. He has been conducting field research throughout Mexico for over 20 years, which has resulted in three major books about classical Mexican music from the 1920s, electronic dance music from Tijuana and about the different music of the U.S.-Mexico border. At the end of this year his new book about danzon, and the historical and cultural flows between Cuba-Mexico and the American South, will be released by the University of Texas Press.
‘Music in Mexico’ explores music of the last three generations
There was not a single textbook about Mexican music in English when Oxford Press commissioned Madrid to write Music in Mexico. The resulting book is a powerful volume that goes beyond a catalog or history of Mexican music. “Music in Mexico explores the music Mexicans of the last three generations have grown up listening to,” Madrid said, adding that “The idea was to explain the cultural significance of the music one is most likely to hear at the homes of Mexican families both in Mexico and the U.S., and take that music as a point of departure to try to understand the contemporary transnational experience of the Mexican people.”
Music in Mexico was meant as a textbook for people interested in Mexican, Latino, and Latin American culture. All the books in the Global Music Series have an accompanying website with detailed analysis, but Madrid says he wrote the book keeping in mind that there was no other book on the topic in English so he used a language accessible to a wider audience.
In as much as Music in Mexico is part of a series, Madrid said each book is determined by each author’s personality, academic and aesthetic interests. He feels Music in Mexico is not geographically bound. His effort was to write about the cultural flows between Mexicans in Mexico and Mexican Communities in the U.S. “I wanted to center the discussion as to how the economic success of the latter has re-shaped the entertainment industry in their country of origin in the last twenty or twenty five years,” Madrid said.
Madrid believes that Latino art and music has had a deep influenced in the U.S. since the 19th century and explains that “The presence of Latin music elements and practices in many icons of U.S. musical identity (such as early New Orleans jazz) but also the common elements between many Latin music and many US folk music traditions further challenges notions of U.S. exceptionalism.” His own tastes in music are eclectic. He said he enjoys everything from electronic dance music, danzon, and reggaeton to the classical music of Rachmaninoff, Elliott Carter and Silvestre Revueltas, or bluegrass. But he added that the more he studied different music the less he could claim to have a favorite type of music.
He said we cannot listen to different music in the same way because it engages different aesthetic systems, so we need to know how to listen to the different music. “Being able to meaningfully move beyond these aesthetic boundaries,” Madrid explained, “is always incredibly rewarding.