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Imagining Native America in Music

Imagining Native America in Music

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Imagining Native America in Music
    Book Description:

    This book offers a comprehensive look at musical representations of native America from the pre colonial past through the American West and up to the present. The discussion covers a wide range of topics, from the ballets of Lully in the court of Louis XIV to popular ballads of the nineteenth century; from eighteenth-century British-American theater to the musical theater of Irving Berlin; from chamber music by Dvoˆrák to film music for Apaches in Hollywood Westerns.

    Michael Pisani demonstrates how European colonists and their descendants were fascinated by the idea of race and ethnicity in music, and he examines how music contributed to the complex process of cultural mediation. Pisani reveals how certain themes and metaphors changed over the centuries and shows how much of this "Indian music," which was and continues to be largely imagined, alternately idealized and vilified the peoples of native America.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13073-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Notes for the Reader
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: A Language for Imagining Native America
    (pp. 1-14)

    In Samuel Goldwyn’s film musical adaptationWhoopee!(1930), the principal character, a nervous white upper-middle-class hypochondriac played by comedian Eddie Cantor, becomes embroiled with an Indian tribe that, incidentally, manages near the end of the film to stage a musical extravaganza entitled “Song of the Setting Sun.” This production number was designed and choreographed by Busby Berkeley and Florenz Ziegfeld. It featured not only Ziegfeld’s ubiquitous long-legged dancing girls—as lovely Indian maidens—but also stalwart males in splendid Sioux regalia, a blazing sunset (an early experiment in Technicolor), thundering tom-toms, a chieftain with an operatic baritone voice, and, of...

  6. Part One: New World Americans

    • 1 Noble Savagery in European Court Entertainments, 1550–1760
      (pp. 17-43)

      When Columbus first encountered the welcoming Tainos of the West Indies in the 1490s, he called themIndios,thinking he had met the Indian peoples of the Far East. “Indian” became and remained a term by which people in the Western Hemisphere identified the native peoples of the Americas. It has also remained, to some extent, the term by which many of American Indian descent have chosen to identify themselves. “Native American,” a liberal derivation that originated in the 1970s and that would seem to be a modern political correction of the original “Indian” misnomer, is in fact a reversion...

    • 2 Death, Defiance, and Diplomacy: Resistance in British-American Theater and Song, 1710–1808
      (pp. 44-76)

      Several prominent court entertainments in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries—as we saw in the last chapter—depicted and imagined the Americas through music. These ballets and operas shared at least three things in common: First of all, by positioning “Americans” (i.e., personified American Indians) in aristocratic roles, Europeans during this time attempted to elevate their status within a hierarchy of civilization. Second, the symbolic representation of American Indians in European courts and royal theater served as political allegory. It would be oversimplifying the situation, however, to say that all such representations served predominantly to justify colonial enterprises. For...

  7. Part Two: Exotic Peoples, Exotic Sounds

    • 3 Imagining the Frontier, 1795–1860
      (pp. 79-125)

      One morning in 1803, John Rodgers Jewitt, armourer for theBoston,a ship anchored in Nootka Sound off the coast of Vancouver Island, suddenly found himself alerted to a scuffle on deck. The ship had been overtaken by several Nuu-chah-nulth, a formerly amicable tribe that was suddenly annoyed by the intruders. Chief Maquinna ordered the American sailors killed but spared Jewitt because of his ability to clean and repair guns. Jewitt and another surviving companion were enslaved for almost three years, during which time he learned the Nootkan language and took careful note of the customs, rituals, and music of...

    • 4 “In the Glory of the Sunset”: Singing and Playing Hiawatha
      (pp. 126-158)

      Arriving at the climax of the distancing phase of American Indians in antebellum American culture, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’sThe Song of Hiawatha(1855) in effect answered Irving’s call most succinctly, for its protagonist was one of the most resilient imaginary Indians of all time.Hiawatha,appearing as it did in times of growing political animosity between the North and South, would seem to have been dead in the water, a throwback to an earlier stage of noble savagery and romantic literature. And yet few works of American poetry had its endurance. Within a decade it was translated into dozens of...

  8. Part Three: Nostalgia for a Native Land

    • 5 Ethnographic Encounters
      (pp. 161-181)

      Longfellow’sThe Song of Hiawathamay have remained a popular representation of American Indians for many decades, but it reflected none of the realities of late nineteenth-century American life, especially those of a shifting economy based on the need for more land and natural resources. The settling of the vast and fertile Mississippi valley, for example, was vividly described by theNew York Tribuneeditor Horace Greeley in 1869: “And to its luxuriant and still unpeopled expanse all nations, all races, are yet eagerly flocking . . . from every quarter, every civilized land, the hungry, the portionless, the daring...

    • 6 The Nationalism Controversy: Quotation or Intonation?
      (pp. 182-210)

      In the 1890s, composers and music critics in the United States launched a debate about an idiomatic American concert music and its supposed roots in folk music. The debate—analogous to similar discussions in Bohemia, Norway, and Russia—considered the similarities between (principally) Native American, African American, and Anglo-American musics, even though many argued that dramatic differences in social context and meaning rendered the first of these an inassimilable exotic in contrast with the others. The notion of Indian music as a component of nationalism nevertheless persisted well into the twentieth century. It would seem that composers’ attraction to such...

    • 7 In Search of the Authentic: Musical Tribal Portraits, 1890–1911
      (pp. 211-240)

      During these two decades of rising progressive politics in America, “musical Indianism” continued a course of expansion, fueled to a large extent by the nationalism debates of the 1890s. It is obvious to us today that the peak of American musical nationalism was reached in the 1930s and 1940s, by which point African American and Anglo-American sources had replaced native America as a key source for nationalism. But interest in native America actually constituted the first major wave of “Dvořák’s long American reach,” as Adrienne Fried Block has called it, a wave that reached its apex about 1911. These two...

  9. Part Four: Americans Again

    • 8 “I’m an Indian Too”: Playing Indian in Song and on Stage, 1900–1946
      (pp. 243-291)

      When a young Charles Wakefield Cadman embarked on his “Indian Music Talks” in 1909 with Tsianina Redfeather (Cherokee-Creek), the Cherokees were still recovering from the 1898 Curtis Act that first converted their reservation land into allotments and then, in 1906, into the state of Oklahoma. While in the first decade of the twentieth century many Indian people were struggling to make a place for themselves in American society (or to be left alone), romanticized Indians flourished in the arts. Not since the 1840s had there been such an astonishing proliferation of American Indian icons. How and why Indian subjects became...

    • 9 Underscoring Ancestry: Music for Native America in Film
      (pp. 292-329)

      “Pin your eyeballs, son, there’s a redskin over that rock yonder!” shouts California Joe to George Armstrong Custer in the 1942 Warner Brothers filmThey Died with Their Boots On. As Custer’s wife Libby replies apprehensively with “Indians?” we hear a throbbing tom-tom along with high unison wood-winds playing a short descending chromatic figure, a figure bookended by the interval of an augmented fourth. Clearly there is no musical ceremony or drumming taking place offscreen. Instead we see what California Joe sees: an Indian scout crouching atop a high hill. Before we have much time to interpret this image, however,...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 330-332)

    By way of concluding this overview of some four hundred and fifty years of music, we should return to a few of the questions raised in the introduction, perhaps rephrased now with greater nuance in the light of historical perspective. To what degree is it possible to interpret the peoples and cultures of native America—or any peoples—through musical expression? What role does context play in the way we hear music (especially given music’s allusive nature)? What can we say now about the “collective storehouse” of indexical features—some might call them musical clichés—that have been mixed and...

  11. Appendix 1 Forty-nine Parlor Indian Songs and Ten Parlor Instrumental Works, 1802–1860s, Arranged Chronologically
    (pp. 333-335)
  12. Appendix 2 Selected List of Instrumental Character Pieces (Musical Tribal Portraits)
    (pp. 336-340)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 341-382)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 383-414)
  15. Index
    (pp. 415-422)