UNAM and the Latin Grammy Foundation have established one to rescue music saved and forgotten in the archives of the country’s cathedrals.

Thanks to a scholarship granted by the American institution to the Musicat seminary of the Institute of Aesthetic Research, very soon we will be able to listen to pieces created in Mexico that had remained silent for centuries.

The most recent project of the Music Seminar in New Spain and Independent Mexico, Musicat, based at the UNAM’s Institute of Aesthetic Research (IIE), called The Past that Sounds and Resonates, will be supported with a grant by the Fundación Latin Grammy, after considering its potential to preserve and disseminate an artistic legacy at risk of being lost.

The project consists of recording unheard nineteenth-century pieces, at least not by someone who lives in this century. “That the Latin Grammy recognizes the work of an interdisciplinary academic community like ours and gives us an economic stimulus to continue forward (five thousand dollars) sounds almost utopian,” said Lucero Enríquez Rubio, researcher at the IIE and coordinator of the Seminar.

With 22 years of existence, Musicat is made up of a team of historians, musicians, anthropologists, journalists, dancers, plastic artists, computer scientists and people from other professions who review the archives of the cathedrals, in order to find scores forgotten for centuries, remove them to light and give them new life.

This group of teachers decided that the best place to publicize the results of their research is a recording studio. “One of the vices of the academy is to circulate its findings only among the usual specialists and scholars. Our wish is that this goes out into the street and is heard by anyone: young people, parents, grandparents, even by the man who passes by the corner, “explained Enríquez.

“The Foundation not only wants us to record a series of pieces, but also for them to be available to everyone in a wide-spread portal, and we have had that at Musicat for a long time. We were the first humanities project that UNAM put online, back in 2005”, he recalled.

Legacies that explain our present

The scholarship was not initially considered, “but there are times when everything lines up and works,” commented Andrea López after referring that it was she who, by chance, heard that the Latin Grammy Foundation was looking for projects to support, and It occurred to him to send documentation referring to The Past that Sounds and Resonates to that American institution, based in Miami.

She is a visual artist graduated from the National School of Plastic Arts (today the Faculty of Arts and Design) who worked for four years in the Preservation Department of the National Fonoteca as a digitizer of analog formats. “This previous experience, and the fact that during the confinement we had recorded a video titled In pandemice tempore (similar to what will be presented to the Grammy), made me think that we had what it took. In February I received the letter informing us that we had been chosen.”

In the letter, signed by Tanya Ramos-Puig, president of the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation, it can be read: “After a careful and exhaustive selection and the rejection of many candidates, you are granted this scholarship because we consider that yours is a project of preservation of Latin music genres that reach levels of excellence”.

According to the young woman, the commitment is a lot, since it implies taking Musicat to wider audiences and, for her, it forces her to explore routes that she had not traveled before on a professional level. “It is a different and more intrinsic way of approaching preservation. It is no longer a question of transferring a cassette or a tape to digital format as it was done in the Fonoteca, this is a living experience where you see the musicians interpret pieces created centuries ago”.

For Lucero Enríquez, one of the main benefits of the Seminar is allowing young people to consider other options and shape the products that emerge from this space. “We believe in a horizontal organization in which everyone has the same importance. Decisions should not be left only in the hands of older researchers, like me. Until now, some 150 students from different disciplines have collaborated with us and we hope that more will arrive”.

For now, Musicat proposed to the Grammy Foundation to deliver an estimated three videos and 10 audios of five nineteenth-century genres: praised, creed, cardenche song, waltz, gangs and office of the dead, although the final figure may vary.

A piece on the list that should be highlighted is El vals del Parián, not recorded (except for its introduction), added the researcher. “It is a work written by a fifteen-year-old named Alejandro Gómez to commemorate the demolition, in 1983, of the most important market in Mexico City, known precisely as Parián.”

In the acceptance letter, the Grammy Foundation adds that one of the objectives of El Pasado que Suena y Resuena should always be to promote “awareness and appreciation of the significant contributions of Latin music, and its creators, to Latin American culture.” global”.

“And of course we have.” Enríquez Rubio explained that recording different nineteenth-century genres opens the door to talk about their evolution and how they have survived until now; He gave the example of the waltz, which is still danced at 15-year-old parties and is practiced by various Latino communities in the United States.

That the Music Seminar in New Spain and Independent Mexico is related to projects of this nature is another way to make it grow, since Musicat has always been open to all kinds of participation, the coordinator added.

That will to add has made this initiative born at UNAM today trans-institutional, with the participation of instances such as the Metropolitan Autonomous University and the National Institute of Anthropology and History, as well as universities in the United States and Brazil, he concluded.

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