Indians’ Music Provides Ideas for Composers

This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times newspaper on March 29th of 1925. The author of the article is unknown. The article talks about an attraction on Hollywood Boulevard called Indian Village, which showcases, or rather exploits, Native American song and dance. Sid Grauman, the showman who is well known for creating the Egyptian and Chinese theaters in Hollywood, is responsible for bringing the tribe members from Wyoming to Los Angeles. They were brought to the theater by Sid as a form of promotion for a film that was playing at his Egyptian Theater, titled The Iron Horse. At the theater, the Natives played their traditional music and danced. The author explains that this music has attracted musicians and composers from the area to come and experience the music. In talking about the music, it appears that the author has very little knowledge of Native American music. By applying words like crescendo, tempo, baton, airs, and diminuendo to this music, the author’s classical western perspective becomes apparent. The author also shows his lack of respect for the music by describing it as “weird” and “uncanny”. The author goes even further in disrespecting the Native Americans by refereeing to them as “squaws” and “Indians”. The one part that the author gets right about the music is in their description of the importance of the aural tradition in Native cultures. The Indian Village is a clear example of exoticizing a marginalized group for commercial gain. This is something that happened frequently in the past, and still happens to this day. It is important to talk about these issues to prevent them from happening in the future. With the Chinese Theater, Egyptian Theater, and Indian Village, it seems as if Sid Grauman made a career out of exoticizing other people’s cultures.


One thought on “Indians’ Music Provides Ideas for Composers

  1. Very cool primary source, Sam! It’s really interesting to think about Grauman’s Chinese Theater – still a really important place in LA and in film culture more broadly – as part of an early-twentieth-century huckster’s efforts to gain commercially from exoticizing Others. And you’re absolutely right that the “Indian Village” he created was part of a longer tradition that extends back to Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, through the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and all the way to Europe for the various Worlds Fairs that took place there between 1850 and 1940. I’ll say it again: very cool.

    Your post would be even cooler (can you imagine??) if it included a bit of media, whether of Grauman’s Chinese Theater or Grauman himself or some Native American song to give the reader a sense for what it really sounded like, as opposed to what the article says it sounded like. And of course, showing excerpts from the article itself might have been helpful – lots of people are too lazy to click through, and if the article is behind a paywall, they won’t be able to read it anyway. Anyway, just a few things to think about as you work on your next post. Looking forward to reading it!

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