Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Recording Culture: Powwow Music and the Aboriginal Recording Industry on the Northern Plains

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Recording Culture: Powwow Music and the Aboriginal Recording Industry on the Northern Plains

Article excerpt

Christopher A. Scales, Recording Culture: Powwow Music and the Aboriginal Recording Industry on the Northern Plains. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. 368 pages + CD. ISBN 978-0-8223-5338-6. $24.95 USD paperback.

Christopher Scales' Recording Culture: Powwow Music and the Aboriginal Recording Industry on the Northern Plains is an important contribution to the growing body of literature devoted to Aboriginal expressive culture in the twenty-first century. Through an exploration of the overlapping realms of the powwow grounds and the recording studio, Scales interrogates aesthetic preferences, the discourse of tradition and modernity, and the relations of production in the recording of powwow music. He provides insight into musical practices and structures, as well as technical aspects of sound recording and post-production techniques, and elucidates the role that competition has played in shaping powwow as a musical genre and practice.

Scales' work as an ethnomusicologist is uniquely informed by his own experiences working for an Aboriginal music label (Arbor Records) and producing powwow recordings, and singing with a powwow drum group. This ethnography displays elements of auto-ethnography and experiential ethnography given the author's multiple interlocking roles as researcher, singer, and producer. Scales, then, is particularly well-positioned to provide thoughtful and informed commentary on cultural practices of both the studio and the dance grounds. He moves seamlessly between personal experience narratives, descriptions, interview excerpts, and scholarly interpretations, making this insightful work a pleasure to read.

It is clear that Scales is concerned with precision in the use and explanation of terminology throughout the book, and given the complexity of multiple and localized meanings this is no small feat. …

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