Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Northern Haida Songs

Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Northern Haida Songs

Article excerpt

John Enrico and Wendy Bross Stuart. Northern Haida Songs. Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, in cooperation with the American Indian Studies Research Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington, 1996. xiv, 519 pp. ISBN 0-80321816-8 (hardcover).

This book, the result of collaboration between a linguist (Enrico) and ethnomusicologist (Stuart), is a careful descriptive study of repertoires of Masset and Alaskan Haida song, recorded by various collectors between 1942 and 1987. The heart of the book, consisting of musical transcriptions, analyses and detailed linguistic translations of 128 songs, is framed by sections entitled "Ethnographic Background" and "Analysis." The field work for this study was conducted by Enrico over the past two decades and it is his linguistic perspective which is dominant in the study. (Stuart has become primarily a scholar of Japanese music since an early 1970s study of Coast Salish music.) The textual transcriptions and analyses which appear to be the real gold in this study are the hardest aspect for this reviewer (and presumably other musicological readers) to assess for accuracy. The care taken has all the marks of fine scholarship and long immersion in the language of the Haida people. Furthermore, this careful record of the songs will probably prove useful not only for scholars but for practitioners in the future.

Altogether, descriptive care is, indeed, the feature which this study has to recommend it. The ethnography, for example, compares variant descriptions of Haida ceremonial events, validating those of Swanton over those of Murdoch in many cases.' Not only genres (the principal concept around which the ethnography is organized), but also composition techniques, performance practices, musical concepts, and cultural change (represented as the "decline of traditional music") are outlined in this manner. Each transcription records further significant socio-cultural detail, including the composer, owner, singer, and recording source, as well as miscellaneous comments which sometimes relate to provenance, usage, or textual detail. Stuart's transcriptions, in conventional Western notation, are complemented by analytical information about pulse, meters, percussion (simply recorded as presence or absence), pitch change within the performance, number of "renditions" ("strophes" seem to be implied), scale, solfège, "characteristic interval" (the most frequent interval is implied), "characteristic rhythm" (the most frequently repeated pattern), contour (described as undulating, descending, ascending, or stationery). A detailed text transcription with morphemic meanings indicated is followed by a translation. Musical and linguistic phrase structures are compared. The analytical section of the book quantitatively assesses the results of these individual analyses, attempting by means of a distributional analysis to attribute patterns to specific regions or communities, composers, and singers (where the sample is large enough to provide conclusive results).

Nevertheless, I regret that a study as well informed as this one on the level of "texts" is seemingly unaware of its paradigmatic assumptions on the level of cultural position. The nature of the intended audience is one question which remains ambiguous. Native speakers' concerns are addressed in the introduction to the orthography used, but linguistic terminology and objectifying scientific analyses seem oriented rather specifically to linguists. Further indication that native speakers are not the audience is the fact that the index does not include generic terms or other conceptual labels in Haida. Another question concerns the views of the performers about the nature of appropriate responsibilities relating to the representation and use of these songs. "Singers and Sources Represented in the Collection" are listed at the end of the ethnographic section; a number of the recordings are listed as "restricted by request of the singer. …

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