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Mexican tragic ballads songwriting class

This class meets curricular goals in music, culture and literacy. A corrido is a Mexican epic ballad that tells a tragic story, based on a true event. Corridos emerged in the mid 1800s and flourished during the 1910 Mexican Revolution as a ‘chronicle of the people’.

Students learn that subscribing to form is a key element of good storytelling, and that the corrido provides a narrative formula for telling tragic stories. These songs are a respectful homage (though not always devoid of humor) to a person’s tragedy. Folklorist/ethnomusicologist, Juan Díes teaches this class as a two-hour workshop, where a group of students writes corrido based on a local tragedy with the instructor’s help. In a longer residency, each student can write an original corrido.

Topics may range from the loss of lunch money to the loss of a relative. Corridos for this class may be written in Spanish or in English. Students are encouraged to research all the facts of the story. They learn about rhyme, meter, and following a story outline. Students may also learn to illustrate their corridos with woodcuts, linotypes or pencil drawings in the tradition of Mexican broadsides. Students may also get a chance to record their corridos on CD and/or perform them in public as a culminating event.

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