Charles Wakefield Cadman was an American pianist and composer who was a so-called musical “Indian Expert.” He incorporated Native American music into many of his compositions, and gave talks based on his compositions and experiences living with Native Americans all over the US. I stumbled upon an article about him in the The Chicago Defender while looking for white and Native American musicians drawing influence from each other, primarily in the Midwest. This article, dated from 1925, talks about a new kind of American music, as one that is as “characteristic of America as the music of Spain is characteristic of that nation” (The Chicago Defender).1 The article lists Charles Wakefield Cadman as supporting and expressing this view and goes on to both identify Cadman as a man ahead of his time and describes him as an influential figure in ethnology and composing.
This article relates directly to Francis Densmore’s work and Beverly Diamond’s opinions about how to study Native American music. While what we can tell from this article is limited, the text specifically describes Cadman as “spend[ing] many years living among the Indian tribes of the West.” While ‘living among’ could have many different meanings, he likely was much more attached to Native American music and their cultural context than Francis Densmore was.2 In addition, Cadman seems to follow Beverly Diamond’s opinion more closely by living among and most likely learning about the cultures and traditions of the Native Americans.3 Instead of studying this music as an outsider, Cadman attempts (though we don’t know how successfully) to become an insider and therefore get to know the music much better than Densmore’s categorical analysis and recordings. It is possible that Densmore’s intentions were a bit different than Cadman’s in that she wanted to record these songs if they were to die out. In contrast, Cadman’s goal might have been more to get to know Native American so well to use it for his own good.
Through Cadman’s work, this article not only attempts to describe current American music based on his insights, but also tries to predict the future of American music. Not only was Cadman an ethnologist, but also a composer. According to the article, his compositions were the first of its class and the future of American music. It is best compared with other articles that outline others’ work in ethnography and ethnomusicology, and so it has direct ties to Francis Densmore’s and Beverly Diamond’s work. While it is hard to confirm, this article makes it appear as though Charles Wakefield Cadman was a man ahead of his time who pioneered views and practices that came decades later.
1 “Folk Songs Called Root of New Music.” The Chicago Defender, 25 April 1925.