Native American Music

MUSI 207
Native American Music
Chapter 11
Native American Music
Caribbean cont. (depending on time)
Chapter Presentation
Musical Areas
Music and the Supernatural
Music as a Reflection of Culture
Using Music to Construct Pre-History
Intertribal Styles
Musical Areas
Localized Native American (American
Indian) music is classified by stylistic
features characterizing geographical
areas. The culture area concept,
developed and used by American
anthropologists in the early 20th
century, was first and most successfully
applied to the mapping of Native
American cultures.
Musical Areas cont.
Anthropologists found that although there
were 1,000 to 2,000 tribal groups, each with
its own culture and language, they could be
grouped into six to eight major culture areas
distinguished by types of housing, religion,
political structure, etc. Scholars of Native
American music found that musical style
areas coincided generally with these culture
Music and the Supernatural
Music has supernatural powers in
many Native American traditions.
Among the Blackfeet, supernatural
powers reside in songs and are
activated when songs are sung. Songs
are not “composed” but given to
humans by guardian spirits in dreams
or visions.
Music and the Supernatural cont.
They are thought to exist in the
cosmos. Once they come into
worldly existence, songs are
associated with particular activities:
for example, each object in a
medicine bundle has its appropriate
song. A person who owns many
songs is spiritually powerful.
Music as a Reflection of
Music is measured by its ability to
integrate society, ceremonies, and
social events. Technical complexity is
not a valid criterion. For the Blackfeet,
“the right way to do something is to
sing the right song with it.” Every
activity has its appropriate song.
Using Music to Construct PreHistory
There is virtually no written information
about the history of Native American music
(at least until about a century ago) and little
archaeological information. Songs (e.g.,
gambling songs) consisting of short tunes
with few pitches repeated or varied many
times may be a remnant of a highly archaic
stratum of human music.
Intertribal Styles
Older intertribal styles include the Ghost Dance
and Peyote cult. In recent years, the highly
distinctive (and stereotypically “Indian”) Plains
musical style has been adopted by tribes all over
the country. This applies to costume, too. New
ceremonies (e.g., North American Indian Days),
based on traditional midsummer religious
ceremonies, are becoming more important as
symbols of Pan-Indian identity.
For next class
Chapter Exam 11 is due Friday
Comment on the D2L
PowerPoint presentations
(starting to run out of time to do this well)
Read Chapter 12 (pgs. 384401) on Ethnic North American
Pause for a moment today and
listen to the music of your soul.