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Los Sonidos del cine: Cinematic Music in Mexican Film, 1930-1950


Mexican expressive culture in the twentieth century - from the murals of David Alvaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera to the music of Carlos Chávez and Silvestre Revueltas - was key in constructing nationalist identity; in particular, Mexican cinema during 1930-1950 aided in creating new social identities specific to post-Revolutionary Mexican society. The period witnessed the formation and institutionalization of several film genres, the creation of a star system paralleling Hollywood's, and successful domestic and international reception. An area that has not been thoroughly investigated is music and its contributions to nascent cinematic nationalism.

This dissertation proposes an interdisciplinary investigation of music in Mexican cinema between 1930-1950, concentrating on how orchestral and popular music contributed to creating or enhancing cinematic representations of national identity. I examine several film examples from prominent genres developed during this period, such as the prostitute melodrama and the cabaretera subgenre, the indigenista film (films focusing on an indigenous population), cine de añoranza porfirana (films of Porfirian longing), and the comedia ranchera (ranch comedy). While diverse in narrative and structure, these genres emblematize a nationalist consciousness through tropes that paralleled the constantly changing perspectives in state ideologies on international affairs, popular and transnational culture, and domestic modernization. Music in these films embellished and amplified the varying and evolving constructions of identity. Because of the important role film has in the construction of Mexican national identity during this period, examining the film's musical track provides a fruitful avenue for new interpretations that have gone unnoticed.

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