Let us imagine a portrait of Mexico: its landscapes, towns, colonial cities, artistic creations, typical sweets, its choice of food… now, to complete the picture, let us add folk songs which have portrayed daily life, official speeches, popular slogans, radio soap operas, interviews and literary works, all of them in the voices of their authors. No doubt these and many other sounds are an essential part of the cultural wealth of the country.
The aim of the National Music Library is to collect, protect and promote this valuable body of sound which is a reflection of the history, identity and culture of the Mexican people. In this institute, founded in 2008, you can find digitized sound files of public interest, which are restored and preserved so that any visitor may listen to them. At the present time, there is a sound collection of approximately 400 thousand documents, the equivalent of over 37 thousand hours of audio.
So much to listen to…
At the National Music Library there are many options to soak up the cultural sound of Mexico, as well as of the world. You can visit the audio library, an area where you will have access to computers whose databases keep thousands of sound files which include music, political speeches, interviews and much more. The music library also includes a reading room, where you will be able to consult books, audio books, newspapers and magazines specialized in science, art and literature.
Record presentations, lectures and concerts are frequently organized in the main hall. The site also has an acoustic exhibition hall, three academic training classrooms, recording studios and a large garden –“the sound garden”– where environmental works and experimental concerts are presented. If you are interested in getting to know the preservation work carried out at the institution, you may request a service of guided tours of their facilities.
The largest collection of folk music
If you like Mexican folk music, this is the place for you. Recently, unreleased recordings of Mexican composers of the XX century, such as Chava Flores, Jose Alfredo Jimenez and Gonzalo Curie were added to the already large collection of folk melodies.
Maria Eugenia Flores, daughter of Chava Flores, donated his private musical heritage on the 25th anniversary of the author’s death, which was considered a sociologist, storyteller and musical historian of Mexico. The music recently added to the collection covers a large variety of genres, such as Mexican folk songs, boleros, tangos, waltzes and rock.
Radio soap operas and other treasures
Of course, classic Mexican radio soap operas cannot be missing in the music library’s sound collection. Among the more than 350 titles found in the catalog, and which for many years allowed Mexicans to “see” with their imagination, are melodramas, comedies, and historical novels such as Chucho el roto, Little black angels, Joan of Arc, and the Bureaucrat. In addition, you can listen to radio plays such as El baisano Jalil and Pancho Villa.
Likewise, in this space, the visitor can listen to Porfirio Diaz, when, early in the XX century, he thanked the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison for presenting him with one of his first phonographs; the studies conducted in 1896 by the ethnographer Carl Lumholtz on the Huichol songs and the interview given by the muralist Diego Rivera between the forties and fifties, one of the few existing records of his voice.
Its venue: a colonial jewel
The National Music Library is located at the Casa de Alvarado, an eighteenth century building with Andalusian and Moorish influence. The house, located in the Santa Catarina neighborhood, in the center of Coyoacan, was declared historic monument in 1932. From December 1997 to April 1998, it was the home of the poet Octavio Paz, who died on April 19, 1998.
This colonial building, which is more than 300 years old, was restored in 2005. Its already famous garden was one of the spaces that were particularly taken care of, and today, it has become one of the most extensive and best maintained green areas in Coyoacan.
The National Music Library is located at Francisco Sosa No. 383, Col. Barrio de Santa Catarina, Del. Coyoacan, Mexico, D.F.