North American Indian Musical Styles

By Bruno Nettl | Go to book overview

PREFACE:
HISTORY OF THE STUDY OF NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN MUSIC

The history of the study of North American Indian music is closely tied to the history of comparative musicology at large. It served as the subject matter for the beginning of the science and has been a central branch of it since then. Although individual melodies, some of them perhaps in transcriptions reliable enough to be useful, were published earlier,1 the first important studies were made after 1880. The earliest serious study is by Baker.2 Written in Leipzig as a doctoral dissertation, it attempts to survey the entire field of North America and includes a number of transcriptions, partly by the author and partly quoted, made without the use of recordings. This study is primarily of historical interest.

The first study of the music of one tribe, using the accepted methods of comparative musicology, was made by Stumpf.3 It includes nine songs transcribed without recordings. Later students almost invariably made use of phonograph recordings, which has improved the technique of transcribing immeasurably and has made possible the minute study of a song through several successive renditions, each of which may differ from the rest.

Among the American pioneers in North American Indian music, Gilman,4 Fletcher,5 and Fewkes6 must be mentioned. Their works were somewhat isolated from those of their German contemporaries and are not in the usual tradition of comparative musicology. Many collections of Indian songs, transcribed, were also published, without any analytical discussion, by Curtis-Burlin7 and Curtis8 among others. Densmore9 has described the study of Indian music in the nineteenth century.

Among the early German comparative musicologists relatively little was done in the field of North American Indian music. Their work was concentrated primarily on Oriental and Old World primitive music. One monograph of considerable size on the music of the Thompson River Indians was contributed by Abra-

____________________
1
For example, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Dictionnaire de Musique ( Paris, 1768), appendix, contains a Canadian Indian song.
2
Theodor Baker, Über die Musik der nordamerikanischen Wilden ( Leipzig, 1882).
3
Carl Stumpf, "Lieder der Bellakula Indianer", Vierteljahrschrift für Musikwissenschaft, 2 ( 1886), 405-426.
4
Benjamin Ives Gilman, "Hopi Songs", Journal of American Ethnology and Archaeology, 5 ( 1908), 1-160.
5
Alice C. Fletcher, A Study of Omaha Music ( Cambridge, 1893).
6
J. W. Fewkes, "On the Use of the Phonograph among the Zuni Indians", American Naturalist, 24 ( 1890), 687-691.
7
Natalie Curtis-Burlin, The Indians' Book ( New York and London, 1907).
8
Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian ( Norwood, Mass., 1907-1930), 20 vol.
9
Frances Densmore, "The Study of Indian Music in the, Nineteenth Century", American Anthropologist, 29 ( 1927), 68-77. See also Willard Rhodes, "North American Indian Music", Notes, 10 ( 1952), 33-45.

-v-

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