Attempts to understand the place of song in indigenous New World societies have been stymied by powerful European ideologies of music and its uses. This is particularly evident in the case of the Mexica or, as they are commonly known, Aztecs of central Mexico. The crystallization of European conceptions can be followed through five centuries of accounts of Aztec singing. The nature, limitations, and contradictions of these conceptions can be analyzed through a re-reading of paradigmatic European texts such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Essai sur l'origine des langues, a re-reading that takes us to the heart of early poststructuralist thought. From all this emerges not only a broadened conceptual range for our understanding of Aztec song itself but also a defamiliarizing approach to the singing of others in any number of contexts.
- Copyright 1995 The American Musicological Society, Inc.