Of all the art forms, music is the one that effortlessly brings people of all ages and backgrounds together. México has a richly woven cultural tapestry of music, and there is a new music museum in Mérida unlike anything else in the country. Here you can discover – or nostalgically re-visit – the sounds, melodies, performers, and composers of the past.
The recently completed Palacio de la Música in the Centro Histórico is a state-of-the-art homage to popular and traditional Mexican music. There is an acoustically-perfect concert hall for musical performances, an academic program still in the making, and an interactive museum that will delight visitors of all ages and musical tastes, whether Mexican music is something new to them, or it is something they grew up with and runs in their blood.
We recently had a chance to listen to an inaugural concert featuring local musical icon Armando Manzanero, and later we had a tour of the museum given by its exhibition designer, Diego Nevarez of Exhibiscopio, a company that specializes in the planning and design of museums, science centers, and theme parks. He worked closely with the team of architects to create a unique, interactive experience. “The museum is a window into the soul of México,” he explains. “Our goal is to provide an emotional, memorable experience for everyone.” It is also, quite simply, a lot of fun.
The museum is divided into sections, each of which provides a glimpse into the different ways that popular and traditional music have evolved and been shared in México. There are listening stations with headphones throughout the museum, and compelling visuals to enhance your experience, aided by touch screens.
One area is devoted to pre-Hispanic, Colonial, and 19th Century music (especially opera and theater, as well as the role of the piano in private gatherings). Much of the ancient music is already lost to us, but it has been faithfully recreated here. Its influence on future musical forms is indisputable.
The next area is devoted to the cultural influences on our music, and the construction of a Mexican musical identity. Historical events, such as revolution and independence, as well as cultural exchanges with others, all form a part of our musical evolution. Traditional music and Yucatecan music (Jarana, Trova, serenades, and private performances) all have their place here.
One of the most popular sections of the museum is the one devoted to music in the media: theater, radio, records, cinema, and television. Each of these has its own area in the museum where you can travel back in time to the golden years when music made its way into our daily lives through all of these different forms. You will be able to watch theatrical performances, hear the radio shows of the past, play your favorite LP, hear the stories told by the ticket-seller at the movies, and watch TV variety shows from your childhood…or your parents’ childhood.
A highlight of the museum is the section that showcases the performers and composers: without revealing how it’s done, let’s just say you will feel as though you are in the same room with a musical icon from days gone by.
Bringing the visitor into the present, there are sections that explore how Mexican music has expanded and transformed, in genres and in technology. After absorbing all of this, there is a place where you will have a chance to reflect upon who we are as a people, as a result of the music that we hear.
When we asked Diego Nevarez how he feels about the museum now that it is open, he said, “I didn’t realize how happy it would make me to witness the expressions on people’s faces when they hear music that has happy memories for them. I have seen whole families, of all ages, burst into song and dance while watching a performance that is connected to their family story. I couldn’t imagine anything more fulfilling than that.”
Palacio de la Música
Calle 58 x 59, Centro, Mérida
FB: Cultura Yucatán
Editorial by Juanita Stein
Photos by Yucatán Today
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