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Unformatted text preview: s were not very important and the ones that have survived do not provide us with much information. By the time scholars were interested in studying Native American music at the end of the 19th century, the Native American population and culture had been decimated. Many tribes had completely disappeared and those that had survived had had considerable contact with the music traditions of other tribes as well as European Americans and African Americans. Some Native Americans purposefully mislead non- Native collectors in order to protect their traditions. We depend largely on European descriptions of Native American music, and these accounts rely on perceptions that were formed within a whole framework of colonization, conquest, and a very different music aesthetic. European observers and collectors had difficulty comprehending, documenting, and describing music that was so entirely different from their own. Added to all these challenges is this fundamental one: although we sometimes tend to think of Native Americans as a single, homogenous group, they were actually very diverse. Nevertheless, scholars have developed hypotheses based on recordings made in the 1890s, references by early observers such as Jesuit missionaries, knowledge of the movements of tribes and the distribution of certain musical features and song forms, and the preservation of traditions within the Native American community itself. This information has led to the following generalizations. 10 Crossroads: Music of American Cultures (Barkley) Kendall Hunt Publishers, 2013 Commonalities in Traditional Native American Music Music was functional Native American consisted primarily of songs and dances that served a purpose, such as ensuring a successful hunt, effecting healing, or celebrating a battle victory. Music was not a separate aesthetic entity but was instead an element within a much larger context. It was very important for worship, both as accompaniment to sacred rituals and as the act of worship itself. Music was also used for social purposes, such as marking rites of passage. Music had strong spiritual associations Many tribes believed that music possessed spiritual power and that this power was given to human beings through songs. Some tribes believed that all songs were given to them “in the beginning,” while others believed that the songs existed in the spiritual world and were brought into the human realm as needed through dreams or visions. Some individuals appeared to have a special relationship with music, and retreated into isolation until they received a song through visions. Because of the powerful connection between music and the spiritual world, music was judged not by its musical characteristics, but by how effective it was in contributing to the larger spiritual context. Similarly, musicians and composers were not valued for their musical proficiency, technical competence, or aesthetic creativity, but for their expertise in spiritual matters. Many songs were valued for their power and were owned by individuals who needed to protect the power of the songs by not performing them except under special ritualistic or ceremonial circumstances. Music was primarily vocal, and strongly correlated with text and dance Native American music was primarily vocal and strongly correlated with text. For example, in the setting of words to music, the contour of the way the words would have been spoken (the shape created by the pitches rising and falling) was imitated by the musical phrase. If the music was intended to support a ritualistic dance, its structure would also be closely related to the structure of the dance. Many native cultures also used verbal structures that do not normally occur in spoken language. The primary example of this are “vocables,” non- translatable syllables such as hey, ya, and ho that conveyed an emotional or spiritual meaning or identified a particular song or kinds of songs, and that were interpolated into otherwise translatable text. NATIVE AMERICAN MUSIC STR...
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This document was uploaded on 02/16/2014.

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