MARCH 10, 2014
Hispanic Folk Music of New Mexico and the Southwest: A Self-Portrait of a People was considered the most complete synthesis of Hispanic folk music in print when it was first published in 1980. Now, 34 years later, University of New Mexico Press is re-publishing the highly respected book by John Donald Robb. It will be available for purchase at local bookstores or online beginning March 1, 2014.
Many of the songs in the 891-page book were collected during 40 years, beginning in the 1940s, when radio and subsequently television were starting to erode the oral tradition of passing along cultural traditions. The book is easy to read, finding songs is effortless and supporting information is readily available.
The collection of 700 songs is infused with tradition and custom, capturing the rich culture and folklore of New Mexico and adjacent states. Songs are divided into three main categories: Secular Song Text and Melodies, Religious Song Texts and Melodies, and Instrumental Melodies. Secular songs, which include popular corridos, canciones, romances and inditas, make up the majority of entries. Robb provides a description for each new song-form section. The Instrumental section includes a wide variety of Matachines dances, a ritual dance tradition found in Spanish-speaking villages, many of which are still performed across New Mexico.
The text is bilingual and most songs have musical notations and references, which make the Spanish, Hispanic, Mexican and Indian cultures, as they are expressed through song, come together as a unit. Another attractive feature is the scattering of photographs throughout the book; they serve as vivid reminders of the events of daily life presented in the folk songs. The book can be a valuable tool for teachers and professors at the college level, as a textbook or reference for classes in Hispanic folklore, Spanish, Mexican and Chicano music, as well as history and anthropology.
John Donald Robb (1892-1989) traveled across New Mexico recording and transcribing music from the time he arrived in the Southwest in 1941 to lead the Department of Music at the University of New Mexico. He went on to serve as dean of the UNM College of Fine Arts from 1942-1957. Robb was foremost a composer of classical, stage and electronic music. He also was the author of Hispanic Folk Songs of New Mexico. His magnum opus, Hispanic Folk Music of New Mexico and the Southwest, is more useful than ever because the field recordings on which it is based are now instantly available on the website of the University of New Mexico’s Center for Southwest Research.
UNM Press information sheet
Robb article in Santa Fe New Mexican