Hispanic Folk Music of New Mexico and the Southwest

First published in 1980 and now available only from the University of New Mexico Press, this classic compilation of New Mexico folk music is based on 35 years of field research by a giant of modern music. Composer John Donald Robb (1892–1989), a passionate aficionado of the traditions of his adopted state, traveled New Mexico recording and transcribing music from the time he arrived in the Southwest in 1941. Long out of print, his magnum opus 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, along with archival material, photographs and videos.

Fascinated by the complex rhythms and amazing synchronicity of Pueblo Indian dance music, Robb was also captivated by the ancient violin and guitar melodies of the Matachines ritual dance as well as the so-called “Spanish Colonial” social dances, actually a 19th century mix of northern Mexican polkas, valses, chotises and redondos. As he soaked up these musical forms, he learned the region’s Spanish ballad traditions: the Golden Age décima ballads, the narrative ballad traditions of the Iberian romances, and their modern form, the corrido. Using aluminum wire, acetate disk, and then magnetic tape, he made the best quality recordings the technology allowed so that everyone could use them—performers as well as scholars.

John Donald Robb (1892–1989), professor and dean emeritus of the College of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico (1942–1957), was responsible for the growth of fine arts at the University of New Mexico in the 1940s and 1950s. A composer of stage, classical and electronic music, Robb was also the author of Hispanic Folk Songs of New Mexico (UNM Press).

Jack Loeffler is an aural historian, radio producer, writer, and musician. Among his earlier books are Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey and La Música de los Viejitos. He lives in Santa Fe.

Enrique R. Lamadrid is distinguished professor and former chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of New Mexico. He is the author and translator of numerous books for both adults and children.