Here’s a query that came up with a student the other day. Decades ago, in the early ’80s, my wife and I attended the wedding in Chicago of a couple of Hispanic friends. The reception was marked by the most amazing music played by a huge mariachi band: over half a dozen brass players, multiple guitars, wild percussion. It was hot, rhythmically intricate stuff whose meters were difficult to parse, and whose melodies took several repetitions to pin down. Le Sacre‘s complexity paled before it. If it wasn’t in meters like 13/8 or 17/16, I couldn’t have proved it myself. The counterpoint had more voices than I could count. I was spellbound. I had never heard anything like it.
And I haven’t since. I’ve bought various recordings of mariachi music, and never found anything particularly more challenging than “Cielito Lindo.” I’ve consulted experts, I’ve taken recommendations, and I can’t find any recorded mariachi music remotely as difficult or sophisticated as I heard at that wedding. Some of it’s rhythmically lively, of course, but none of it had that level of metrical complexity. Does anyone know where such mariachi music can be found? And why the recorded examples seem so ridiculously watered down? Did I stumble across the one Mexican group whose musicians had all studied with Nancarrow?