General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 27 Feb 2021/4 Dog
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Can you suggest good books on Aztec music?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Alex Oldroyd: I am in my final year at Bristol University studying music. I have been very interested in the music of the Aztecs and Nahuatl tribes for quite a while and so I have decided to study the subject for my dissertation. I have been doing a bit of research, the only substantial book I can find is Robert Stevenson’s ‘Music in Aztec and Inca Territory’. Firstly it would be hugely appreciated if you would be so kind as to suggest some other books on music of the tribes of Mesoamerica. Also, having read some of the Stevenson, it’s becoming apparent that the subject has been investigated to a point that I won’t make any ground-breaking discoveries without primary research, ie if I travel over there and hit some drums and play some flageolets! I am therefore having trouble deciding exactly what to research, I was hoping you might provide some direction for me.
I’m thinking I could study the effect that the Spanish conquest had on Aztec/Nahuatl/Mesoamerican music. Or has a lot already been written on the subject? I apologise for this onslaught of a question, but I would be so hugely appreciative if you could help me in any way. (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Wandering Mexica minstrel, Florentine Codex
Wandering Mexica minstrel, Florentine Codex (Click on image to enlarge)

We thought this was an enquiry that others might find of interest, so we have written an answer - in terms of books to find and consult - in our ‘Aztec Music’ pages (follow link below).

If we had half a chance we would search out and study the few original pre-Hispanic musical instruments that AREN’T kept in museums (such as the famous teponaztli of Tepoztlan - mentioned in our feature on the teponaztli, link below). We know of no full survey of such instruments.

Yes, a lot HAS been written on the impact of the Spanish Conquest on Mexican music (see our full answer). One fresh ‘tip’ would be to consult a very recent publication, by one of our Panel of Experts, Dr. Susanna Rostas of Cambridge University, entitled Carrying the Word (2009) - perhaps the first full-length study of the ‘Concheros’ dance groups in Mexico City, with their unique blend of indigenous and Spanish influences.

Susanna Rostas’s book ‘Carrying the Word’ (2009)
Susanna Rostas’s book ‘Carrying the Word’ (2009)

We hope some of these leads will prove helpful. If you come up with some interesting new material, do let us know...!


Our feature on the teponaztli

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Mexicolore replies: Cheers, Alex, and good luck!