Music in the California Missions

Mission building was one of the primary methods of conquest the Spanish used over the native peoples of California. Beginning in 1768, Gaspard de Portolà, accompanied by Father Junipero Serra, built twenty-one missions up the coast of California (then called Alta California, as opposed to Baja California) from present-day San Diego up to San Francisco (1). Here is a map made by Irving B. Richman of the approximate mission locations around 1798-1804, which was during prime Spaniard mission-building activity:

Missions were not just elaborate Catholic churches, but were the centers of communities that were built around them. The towns, run by one or two Franciscan priests and a handful of soldiers, were intentionally built around missions so the Spanish could force the indigenous folks of the area into their way of life. This included wearing woven clothing, learning Spanish and Latin, eating European produce, utilizing European agriculture methods and technology, and – most importantly – converting to Catholicism and its culture.

Music played a large role in the Catholic faith of the time, and the indigenous peoples were taught both to sing and to play instruments for masses. The Spanish introduced an entire orchestra’s worth of instruments, including organs, woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion instruments. Evidence of the teaching of Western music theory includes this large fresco depicting a Guidonian hand, which can be compared to an old form of solfège, on a wall of Mission San Antonio.

The music performed in California missions is the most documented and preserved of any Spanish colony in the US. Musicians wrote and performed both plainchant and polyphonic music during masses, and the most popular way of recording works was by making choirbooks, both with music and with information regarding teaching (2). Pieces were written both in Spanish and in Latin, and could be either sacred or secular. Some of the standout composers of the Missions were Fray Narciso Durán of Mission San José, who was so renowned for his skill that he wrote choirbooks and manuscripts for other missions to use and teach from, and Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta, who even wrote music in the Mutsun indigenous language (2).

While the culture of the music in missions, as well as the music itself, has had a lasting impact on Latinx culture as a whole, the treatment of these peoples within missions was horrifying. With European colonizers brought European disease, which wiped out much of the indigenous population. Indigenous inhabitants of the missions were treated as slaves with consequences of torture, starvation, solitary confinement, and execution for disobedience (3). Music may have been one of the few sources of joy for the approximately 20,000 indigenous people on the missions, and its study cannot be separated from the cruelty the Spanish inflicted upon them.

Sources:

(1) “Historical Timeline – California Missions”. 2022. California Missions. https://www.missionscalifornia.com/historical-timeline/.

(2) Summers, William John. “California Mission Music”. California Missions Foundation. https://californiamissionsfoundation.org/articles/californiamissionmusic/.

(3) Smith-Christopher, Daniel L. “Missions and Native Americans.” 2022. The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2256931.

Seeing Sound: What Photography Reveals About Musicking

Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, more commonly known by the moniker Machito, lived a quiet childhood in 1910’s Havana, Cuba.1 He grew up singing and played the maracas from adolescence, and after moving to New York in the 1930’s, Machito became a revolutionary figure on the American music scene. He recorded more than 75 albums over the course of his 50 year career, with his band The Afro-Cubans (founded 1940). Together, the group made major contributions to the development of salsa and mambo and essentially originated what we think of today as Latin Jazz, also known as bebop. “Tanga,” one of the band’s most famous Latin-jazz works (and works, period) exemplifies their style; it’s characterized by “strong multi-tempo percussion [. . .] with jazz wind instruments.”

Machito and the Afro-Cubans became beloved by the American public during their career, as is well documented by historical newspapers that note their popularity when describing their performances.2 But articles don’t capture a sound, the uniqueness of each performance of a particular piece, the mood of a club when an artist is performing; for these things, we turn to recordings, videos, and, I argue, photographs. For example, look below at this photograph of Machito and his sister Graciela Perèz Gutièrrez, who also performed with The Afro-Cubans and performed as lead singer for a time in the forties when her brother was called to military service.

Machito

Machito and Graciela, Glen Island Casino, New York, NY, c.a. July 19473

The photo was taken at the Glen Island Casino, and one could probably venture a guess about what type of atmosphere the performance had based off of the venue alone. But what does a simple venue name tell us about the act of musicking itself? Not much. This photograph, by contrast, can communicate something about the actual art being created, despite the temporal difference; we can see the body mechanics involved in playing, the facial expression, the contrast between the lit stage and the dark room. Even the intimacy of the shot itself, positioned so close to Graciela, suggests a specific sort of small-venue atmosphere, a closeness between performer and audience that must have had an effect upon how the music was experienced. The position of the camera also suggests something about how Machito and the Afro-Cubans were perceived by their audience: as I said, it’s intimate, and that suggests a comfort, even an affection, on the part of the photographer. We can read in newspapers that Machito was beloved by the public, but a photograph like this lets us experience that through the eyes of someone who was there.

What I’m getting at is that a photograph can put a viewer in a temporal moment with a performer, intimately involved in their act of musicking, just as listening to a recording transports a person, so to speak. A photograph gives a musicologist a better sense of the place in which music existed, a personal in, that could be valuable when studying music as a spatial, temporal thing. And in a world where musical performances are often thoroughly documented as pictures, it’s worth asking ourselves what unique value photographs may have to us and future musicologists for deepening our immersion in the music we study.

1 Méndez-Méndez , Serafín. “Machito.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1326403.

Easily located in the ProQuest Historical Newspapers: New York Amsterdam News database. For example, this edition specifically notes his popularity, and this one’s praise of his musical ability is outright flattery

3 “Machito.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Image. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2234214. The photograph is also documented by the Library of Congress, and their webpage has somewhat more information about its origins.

Insider Knowledge from an Outsider’s Perspective

As the illegitimate son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca princess, Garcilaso de la Vega had a unique perspective on both cultures within Peruvian society. His writings betray a respect for the Inca flautists and the music they played on their panpipes, while his observations shed light on the role of music in 16th-century Inca social customs.1

As a member of the cultural elite, de la Vega evidently had at least some musical training, allowing him to describe in detail the structure and voicing of the Inca panpipes and the characteristics of the music they played. He admires the skill of the flautists, noting that they were “always in tune” when they played together and that their skills were not limited to their own repertory, but translated to European music as well, which they could sightread. However, he does display hints of elitism when describing the general lack of singing in Inca culture, stating his belief that this was because the Inca “were not sufficiently good [singers]” and “did not understand singing”.

The panpipes are closely tied with Inca culture even today, and in the 16th century they carried great ritual importance. De la Vega discusses the significance of the panpipes in Inca courting, noting that young men played the flute to woo young ladies, with each tune conveying a unique message to the object of one’s affection, so that “it may be said that [a man] talked with his flute”. Thus, both the instrument and the tune had a specific purpose, and other types of songs were “not fit” to be played on the panpipes, revealing the importance of the instrument and of music in general to everyday social practices.

With his intimate experience of Peruvian society, de la Vega’s honest and open admiration of the skill of the flautists and the comparisons he makes between Inca and European music is rare to see among early accounts of the music Europeans encountered through colonization. This makes his work very valuable for ethnomusicology, which is impressive considering he was writing over two hundred years before the field existed at all. This kind of insider status and the insights it brings is exactly what makes Tara Browner’s work in studying pow-wows so valuable, as she departs from a traditional theory-based approach in favor of “[writing] about music and dance as [she has] experienced them”.2 Despite the fact that ethnomusicological research is traditionally undertaken by outsiders who attempt to remain as neutral as possible, these examples demonstrate that the intimate cultural knowledge and understanding of an insider is a valuable tool in investigating musical traditions which may be a result of a different value system.

1 The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1541276

2 Browner, Tara. “All about Theory, Method, and Pow-Wows.” Essay. In Heartbeat of the People: Music and Dance of the Northern Pow-Wow, 1–17. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Wampum and its importance to Eastern Woodland Native Americans

Wampum is a traditional shell bead of the Native American tribes of the Eastern Woodlands. The beads are harvested from the shells of Western North Atlantic hard-shelled clams and are typically white and purple. Native Americans would harvest the clams in the summer and eat their contents before working on the shells. The process of creating wampum was long and hard, usually taking a full day to make just one bead. Shells would be ground or drilled down very carefully using rocks. Not only was the process difficult, but it was also somewhat dangerous, fine dust from the shaved off shells could cut up the lungs if ingested so Native Americans would often use water to limit the dust.

Wampum belt made of shell beads, buckskin, & ribbon. Anthro #A738.1

After the beads were made, they were placed on strings made of either plant fibers or animal tendons. They were often worn decoratively and sometimes even formed into belts which were used to tell stories and mark agreements between peoples. There were usually only two colors of wampum, white and purple, each having their own meanings. White wampum usually denoted purity or light while purple wampum typically represented war, grieving, and death. The two colors would often be combined to represent the duality of the world. 

 

 

Wampum strings and belts had many uses such as currency, gifts, and a means of telling stories. Tribes would often trade wampum with each other in exchange for other goods. Due to the meaning of each color of bead, wampum was also used as a gift, white wampum being given to celebrate things like births or marriages and purple wampum being used for condolences after the loss of loved ones. Moreover, mixed belts, which represented the duality of the world, were given as peace treaties and used to tell stories to others and future generations. 

 

 

 

The worth of wampum was also recognized by many European settlers. A letter written to Thomas Penn from James Logan in 1937 shows that the Europeans knew the significance of wampum. In a proposal to meet the chiefs of the Six Nations at Albany, Logan proposed that Governor Gooche accompany his letter with 2 to 3 fathoms of wampum as a peace offering. Wampum beads and belts even became a commodity in Europe. In a receipt written from Isaac Low in 1769, a paper bundle of wampum was sold to someone in Europe for £15 11s. 6d. 

Although the significance of wampum has dwindled for non-Native Americans, wampum and the process of making it is still unquestionably important to the culture and traditions of Native Americans. This video shows the traditional process of making wampum by hand, still followed by Native Americans today.

References:

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Letter to [Jelles Fonda, Caghnawaga]” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 23, 2022. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/b8a373ad-28d8-942d-e040-e00a18065263

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Letter to the Proprietary [Thomas Penn]” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 23, 2022. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bb4ebb8a-0e86-c85e-e040-e00a18063bc4

Scott Dressel-Martin. Wampum belt. 7/26/2010. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, https://dmns.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/detail/DMNSDMS~4~4~11333~100798. (Accessed September 20, 2022.)

Traditional Wampum Belts. PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, 2018. https://www.pbs.org/video/traditional-wampum-belts-gy05in/. 

Tweedy, Ann C. “From Beads to Bounty: How Wampum Became America’s First Currency-and Lost Its Power.” ICT. ICT, October 5, 2017. https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/from-beads-to-bounty-how-wampum-became-americas-first-currencyand-lost-its-power. 

Tweedy, Ann C. “From Beads to Bounty: How Wampum Became America’s First Currency-and Lost Its Power.” ICT. ICT, October 5, 2017. https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/from-beads-to-bounty-how-wampum-became-americas-first-currencyand-lost-its-power.

Wallace, Anthony F C. “The Iroquois Wampum Belts.” Anthropology News (Arlington, Va.) 12, 4 (1971): 7–7. https://doi.org/10.1111/an.1971.12.4.7.2.

Wampum Belt. 1682. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, https://dlgadmin.galileo.usg.edu/iiif/2/dlg%2Fguan-dpla%2Fartsus%2Fguan-dpla_artsus_in26%2Fguan-dpla_artsus_in26-00001.jp2/full/1000,/0/default.jpg. (Accessed September 20, 2022.)

 

Learning Culture Through Immersion

Francis Densmore was an ethnomusicologist working in the early 20th century to try and save American Indian music which she thought was going extinct. We criticize Densmore’s ethnographies of American Indian music because it uses Western musical notation and form, as well as statistics, to try and describe music which it does not reflect accurately. Native musics cannot be accurately represented by Western standards because the songs were not, in the slightest, based on Western musical practices.

So the question arises: how can we more accurately describe Native American musicking? How do we more accurately describe any historical practice that has been put through a process of Westernization? As practitioners of Western musical notation, form, and math ourselves, we may be at a loss for how to represent music, or any of the aforementioned “historical practices” we wish to learn more about or preserve in a way that is true to the culture from which it came without imparting our unconscious bias, embedded in the way that we learn, onto the culture of another. We must do this not for the mere respect of peoples whom the majority of Americans owe our stolen land, but because we must provide more accurate information based of the findings of people like Densmore. We could not do the work we do without the information that she and others like her have gathered, and at the same time we must make this data more accurately represent the history of the culture from which it came, in a way in which we can understand, if we truly believe in the pursuit of the truth.

So, how do we more accurately describe and learn about American Indian music, given that using Western notation does not accurately reflect these cultures? Furthermore, to expand (and with the aim of avoiding generalizations), this goes for the music of individual tribes as well as American Indian music on the whole as well as any music for which Western music does not accurately represent.

If we choose to avoid Western methods, then what should we use? The first thing that comes to mind would be to use the methods which Native Americans themselves use to learn, teach, and depict their music. Pow-wow, for example, is a way in which members of certain tribes pass along information through generations.

Wendake Pow-wow, 2019

Another method that Native Americans use to depict their music is through pictographs.

Kokopelli Pictograph

By learning what we are able from a certain culture’s portrayal or demonstration of their own art, we can create scholarship about a different culture while avoiding shoehorning their customs into the dimensions of another.  While it may not seem like we can glean much from pictographs, or maybe even pow-wows at first, opening our minds to different expressions of art and culture immerses us more deeply in the lives of other people. It is necessary to go through this process of experiential learning in order to give the correct context for what we discover, not only because it greatly reduces the chances of Westernizing something that is not but also to come to more accurate conclusions.

https://books.google.com/books?id=HyZ6EAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Click to access PowWows.pdf

 

The Studying of Native American Music: Is it Ethical?

When one thinks of Native American music, what comes to mind? For me, I think of powwows which consist of dancing and music and fancy regalia. I additionally think of bison burgers and jewelry buying stations (where I still own a piece I bought 10 years ago). My experience, however, is not the full truth.

Frances Densmore, a name popular in the musicology world for studying Native American music, was one of the first people to attempt to understand more about the world of Native American music. In 1919-1920 (not too long ago), Densmore conducted a study among members of the Skidi and Chaui Bands near Pawnee, Oklahoma. 1  The first treaty between specifically Pawnee and the Government was in 1818 with the Ratified Indian Treat 92: Grand Pawnee – St. Louis, June 18, 1818.

Ratified Indian Treat 92: Grand Pawnee – St. Louis, June 18, 1818.2 

With this treaty, it felt that Natives were becoming more known about and taken into account for living in the United States. But some would say how problematic it would still become. The chart below documents the tonality and takes into account the first note and how that affects the key of the melody.

However helpful this may be to the Western culture in understanding the first hearings of Native American music. It almost disrespects their culture and tradition. It is not ethical or right to fully understand and teach others about Native music through a Western Lens then it would be for Natives to teach classical music through a Native American Lens. It’s like teaching an animal to read a book!

A study done by Mark Evarts, published in 1967, shows a different type of notation after hearing Native American melodies.3  For example, the first melody is titled “A Bear Song of Peter Wood” and “Old Hand Game Song” and explains the story behind these songs by analyzing through explanation with only a bit of notation. Evarts writes that the song symbolizes two opposite parties in war which is acted out emotionally and song on “meaningless” syllables. Evarts says meaningless but how do we know it is or isn’t? He writes the words below and attempts to show the song in stanzas. I believe it is better notation than completely composing it to look Western-styled.

Overall, I feel that as society progresses, the understanding of other cultures’ music will continue to grow with respectful and helpful learning. We have to be able to understand through two different perspectives, ours and theirs, to get as complete of a picture as possible. We will not always be able to understand the meaning or why one part of the song says a certain word, but we can treat them as humans.

1  Frances Densmore, Pawnee Music (New York: Da Capo Press, 1972 [1929])

2 Ratified Indian Treaty 92: Grand Pawnee – St. Louis, June 18, 1818. The Indigenous Digital Archive. https://digitreaties.org/treaties/treaty/162559362/

3 Evarts, Mark. “Music of the Pawnee – Sung by Mark Everts. Internet Archive. (Folkways Records; Kahle-Austin Foundation, 1967).

Ethicality of Researching Native American Tribes

Along the border of New Mexico and Arizona one can find the Zuni people, a North American Indian tribe. Believed to be the descendants of the prehistoric Ancestral Pueblo, they have a long history of connection to the Pueblo tribe, including the involvement in the Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish. Their culture is deeply rooted in religion, spirituality, and the earth, specifically being known as the “Sun Worshippers”. Additionally the Zuni people, much like many other native tribes, utilize music in order to create a community space while completing activities like fire starting or welcoming the sunrise. One of the primary sources I am sharing involves the research of the Zuni tribe by Carlos Troyer and the notation of traditional Zuni songs. The score shown is titled Zunian Lullaby and it is originally from a book, Traditional Songs of the Zunis, created by Troyer in 1904. Recently discussed throughout the class, often the music of native tribes are unethically studied and then the musical culture is manipulated into western style notation, as you could see from other scholars like Browner or Diamond. This score represented in particular is in G Major and utilizes basic western style articulations. Troyer writes about his experience witnessing this ceremony and the differences between a lullaby by her “white sister” and how the Zuni mothers pronounce an “incantation” while placing a hand on the child’s head. Many questions entered my mind and I refer back to the question we discussed many times over in class which revolves around who should be the one to research and share native customs. It seems to me that the wording and the western biases portrayed in the research gives an indication that while the impact might have been worthwhile, the culture of the Zuni still appears to be presented as different than the norm.

Alongside the primary score that I have described, attached is a book written by Carlos Troyer entitled Indian Music Lecture published in 1913. This book encapsulates Carlos’s life and experiences as he traveled various spaces in order to discover and share various tribes’ religion, government, and lifestyle. Carlos himself is a musician born in Frankfurt in 1837 who then traveled to America at a young age and began teaching music, composing, and traveling to a variety of native lands. His contact with the Zuni people occurred when he was entrusted to interpret their songs through his work in California. Instead, Troyer visited the tribe and learned of their sacred dances, ceremonies, and “traditional lore”. His goal of the trip, just like his work with other tribes, was to give insight to mainly American and European people about indigenous culture. While it can be said that he achieved his goal and spread awareness on the tribe’s way of life, the way in which Troyer went about entering the tribe is questionable in terms of ethics. It appears that he gained permission and was well received, but one wording in a letter at the beginning of the book by Charles Cadman claimed that he “conquered” other tribes. Whether liked or not, it comes to reason that his privilege of power as a white man allowed him privileges to expect acceptance of his research. Lastly, there is the occasional phrasing that invokes a sense of superiority such as the title of the book which is “an address designed for reading at musical gatherings, describing the lives, customs, religions, occult practices, and the surprising musical development of the cliff dwellers of the south west”. Wording like “surprising” gives indication that little was expected of the tribe and it places indigenous culture in an othering position.

2019 Buffalo dance/Pueblo of Zuni,NM @ Sañto Ñino

Bibliography

Mateya. “2019 Buffalo Dance/Pueblo of Zuni,NM @ Sañto Ñino.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Jan. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=o74Z0ZZOTEI.

Robert Stevenson. “Troyer, Carlos.” New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Oxford
University Press, 2001, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.28481.

Stevenson, Robert. “Troyer, Carlos.” Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. Date of
access 22 Sep. 2022,
https://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001
.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000028481

Troyer, Carlos, and Charles Wakefield Cadman. Indian Music Lecture: The zuñi Indians and
Their Music: An Address Designed for Reading at Musical Gatherings, Describing the
Lives, Customs, Religions, Occult Practices, and the Surprising Musical Development of
the Cliff Dwellers of the South West. Theo. Presser Co., 1913.

Musical Performance or Spectacle? Documenting Native Music and Ritual

I came across a journal kept by George Catlin, an explorer and painter traveling the American West in the 1830s, in which he documents a yearly Mandan ceremony commemorating a great flood, in the American Indian Histories and Cultures database. While Catlin describes the ceremony as a dance and documents the role of singing and drumming in the ritual, he spends far more time describing the elaborate costumes of the dancers and the story they are telling than he does describing the music itself.

This is typical of a wider attitude which prevailed among ethnomusicologists, historians, and the public until fairly recently that Native American musical traditions were little more than primitive chants and drum beats and were certainly not artifacts of high culture like the European musical canon.1 This attitude meant that Native music was often not taken seriously by early observers like Sir Francis Drake and John Smith, whose descriptions of “a most miserable and doleful manner of shreeking [sic]” and “such a terrible noise as would rather affright” the listener echo those of Catlin.2 Even the work of later authors like Frances Densmore and Alice Fletcher, who pioneered serious ethnomusicological investigation of Native traditions, often relied on theories of social evolution to justify the idea that Native Americans and their music could not possibly be as advanced as European culture and music.4

Catlin’s focus on the story being told seems more appropriate to a play or pantomime rather than a musical performance. He does not analyze the music itself beyond a few short comments, but describes at length the elaborate costumes of the dancers and the many animals and natural phenomena they represent, noting that “many curious and grotesque amusements and ceremonies” took place over the four days of the ceremony.3 Besides devoting several pages of text to describing the ceremony, Catlin also preserved it in several paintings. Catlin mentions that large water-filled sacks were used as drums, along with rattles, to accompany a song which is repeated many times throughout the ritual, and notes that it was impossible to obtain a translation of this song, as it was a closely guarded secret even within the tribe. However, beyond these observations he makes no attempt to analyze the lyrics, composition, or instrumentation of the song, focusing instead on the visual spectacle of the bull-dance, which he describes as being “of an exceedingly grotesque and amusing character”.3

As an explorer who was clearly dedicated to documenting the rituals he saw both on the page and the canvas, it is fair to assume that Catlin was truly interested in preserving the details of the ceremony he was witnessing. Of course, Catlin was far from a trained ethnomusicologist, as the field didn’t even exist for fifty years after he was writing, and therefore did not have the same goals or values and was probably not musically trained. However, this amateur status actually reveals that Catlin’s attitude that the ceremony was simply too far outside of his experience to count as music and was not worth preserving or even really discussing was a common reaction to Native music. While these cultural attitudes clearly had nothing to do with formal training or education, they were still taken as scientific truth for decades.

Learn Your Genres (and History)!

The way white people describing Black Americans and their music never ceases to shock me, especially from an older source like a 1920s newspaper article. In the specific article I will be referring to, the title is “Dancers Need Substitute for U.S. Jazz”. At first glance, I thought it was a flier notifying its readers that dancers for a show were needed, but this is not at all what the article dives into. 

 

It was hard to tell where this “article” came from because there was no author stated and all it says at the top is “Prague, Czech Home Service”. I was unsure if this was a newspaper or a subsection of a paper. This was extra confusing because the topic was on American music but there were European countries in it. However, after a closer look, I realized that it was a transcribed message from, likely, a radio show. 

 

The very first “ear” catching statement made by the narrator was quoted from a musical composer “many people are unable to realize the difference between jazz and dance music”(Par. 1) The narrator goes on to share their own thoughts on this statement. It is a bit hard to deduce who the narrator is and anything of their background, but it seems like they have only heard the white american perspective. Comments such as “Old Negro folk songs were only sung. Their rhythm originated from the rhythm of work. So-called modern jazz has no effect on feelings, but only on the lowest primitive urges.”, and “American owners of slaves and plantations”(Par. 3-4). This second comment alone lets me know that this narrator didn’t view these people as enslavers. This to me says that they don’t understand the trauma and suffering of slavery, therefore they don’t understand the meaning behind slave songs. Slave songs also aren’t jazz. They influenced jazz, but the reverse is not true.


Work Cited:

DANCERS NEED SUBSTITUTE FOR U.S. JAZZ. (1954, March 17) Prague, Czech Home Service. Translated in DAILY REPORT. FOREIGN RADIO BROADCASTS (Publication no. FBIS-FRB-54-053, published 1954, March 18), HH2-HH3. Available from Readex: American Race Relations: Global Perspectives, 1941-1996: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.stolaf.edu/apps/readex/doc?p=TOPRACE&docref=image/v2%3A12895BC6AA32DB40%40FBISX-131CEE8714B10AF8%402434820-131CEE95A3BF5E00%4036-131CEE9605E97168%40DANCERS%2BNEED%2BSUBSTITUTE%2BFOR%2BU.S.%2BJAZZ.

The Power Dynamics of the Music Industry

In this post, my attention was immediately drawn. A professor of musicology at Columbia University named Paul Henry Lang made critical remarks regarding the musical education of the general public. He believed that those in the industry were failing to create a musically educated environment. These people included teachers, boards, communities and committees. His issue is basically the corruption in favor of those in power. Managers and directors use their power to make artistic decisions for the artist(s). Professor Paul Henry Lang articulated his views in response to a news magazine article (Harper’s Magazine) that stated, “practically the entire literature of music has been recorded; and from now on only duplications can be expected.” Professor Lang asks, in response to this quote, “how can such an uninformed concept of the literature of music arise?” He then goes on to talk about his inferences on why such an uninformed comment was made (these inferences being about the power dynamics in the industry as I described previously).

I find this article extremely timeless (for at least the last century). These are the same issues we deal with in the music industry today. Many artists have little to no control over their image and artistic choices. For example, Megan Thee Stallion has been forced to embody her “Hot Girl” persona and rap songs that all have the general sexual message. She sued her label, 1501 Certified Entertainment because they were not allowing her to release her new album. Here’s a link to an article that better explains it. 

Frank Ocean also had issues with his label Def Jam and decided to leave in 2016 after releasing his second studio album Endless. This allowed him to independently release another album, Blonde, very soon after. He describes his relationship with Def Jam as “a bad marriage”. Here’s a link to an article with more information.

More and more artists are beginning to release music independently because they know how controlling record labels can be. Maybe this is the answer to the abuse of power in management within the music industry. 

Chicago Defender article link: https://www.proquest.com/hnpchicagodefender/docview/493728735/60A0321019944CECPQ/4?accountid=351

Citations

Hogan, M., 2020. Why Is Megan Thee Stallion Suing Her Record Label?. [online] Pitchfork. Available at: <https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/megan-thee-stallion-suing-record-label-suga/> [Accessed 16 November 2021].

Levine, Nick. “Frank Ocean ‘Left Record Label Early’ Because It Was like a ‘Bad Marriage’, Says Report.” NME, September 17, 2016. https://www.nme.com/news/music/nme-2595-1198708.

“Musicologist Criticizes Music World.” 1959.Daily Defender (Daily Edition) (1956-1960), Jul 29, 8. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/musicologist-criticizes-music-world/docview/493728735/se-2?accountid=351.

Cuban Bishop Observer

First of all, I would like to say that I find it very cool that there are texts from the 1600s. Although the text I read was not the original copy, nor is it in the original language, it gives details on how and who translated it to a legible copy and annotations corresponding with the letter text. It is a collection of letters by Gabriel Diaz Vara Calderón, a 17th century bishop of Cuba. The purpose of his letters are clearly to observe and record his observations of Indigenous peoples and their land and forward this information to the queen (of Spain). He mainly gives information about the land and how it is utlized by the Indigenous peoples. He also details the queen with estimates of Indigenous populations within each village he finds. I’m really unsure of what the purpose for this was. My only inference is that this bishop is scouting out the land for the queen to do something with, however it sounds like at this time it was already controlled by the queen. I am surprised that when giving information about the populations of villages, the bishop distinguished the different villages instead of referring to all of them as “Native Americans”.

I cannot make this post without noting the disrespectful language used by this bishop to refer to the Indigenous peoples. In one of his entries, he describes Indigenous Carribeans as savages. He also uses the words “heathens” and “savages” throughout his letters to the queen. Although, after looking up the word “heathen” I realized it could be used to refer to someone that is a non-believer (in Christ). In modern language (and my perspective) heathen is an insult but I never associated it with religion. Now that I understand the meaning behind the term, it’s unsurprising to see it being used by this 17th century bishop as one of the main goals of colonization was to assimilate that people being colonized.

 

https://www.aihc.amdigital.co.uk/Documents/Images/Ayer_301_S6_v95_no16/2

 

Blame It On The Blues

Blame It On The Blues is a 1914 jazz/blues/stomp song by Chas. L Cooke. It is written in the key of G in simple duple time. The beginning of the piece starts off with a sequence that repeats three times, each time down an octave. The right hand retains the melody throughout the entire piece and the left hand plays an eighth note pattern that alternates from being on the beat to being syncopated. The right hand is mainly syncopated. Like many blues pieces, there are many accidentals scattered throughout the whole song. The song itself is only about three pages long, but with its many repeats, it becomes around six pages. Just by looking at it and doing a quick musical analysis of the piece, you can tell it’s jazz/blues. When you listen to it, you can feel its syncopation and it definitely sounds very repetitive, almost cyclical. When I had this thought about the piece being “cyclical” I hadn’t even realized what the image on the title page was. It is a man and woman, drawn in black and white, sitting in a coil which looks like circles going up and up. Listening to the piece also makes me feel cartoonishly upbeat and active, like I want to complete a task. I think this is because jazzy, old-timey music such as this piece is used in soundtracks for silent films. In those films, the characters/people are moving around very quickly (due to the way it was animated) doing mundane or silly activities. Still, I couldn’t help but listen to it multiple times. I started this post in a very serious and focused mood but I couldn’t help but go down a rabbit hole of popular jazz/blues tunes of the early twentieth century. I guess you might say I could “blame it on the blues”.  

http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/metsnav/inharmony/navigate.do?oid=http://fedora.dlib.indiana.edu/fedora/get/iudl:339801/METADATA&pn=2&size=screen

Sylvan Worship

First of all, I would like to say that this is an incredible database! I had no idea that there was a collection of these African American newspapers that spans more than a century. 

It took me a few tries to find a nice buzz word to put into the database search. I found that the word “spiritual” got me results that most relate to this course. This text “Sylvan Worship” was a bit difficult for me to read at first. This newspaper doesn’t make clear who Curtis, the narrator of the text, was. This made it hard for me to fully comprehend what they were saying without the slightest bit of background. Because all of the texts from this database are from African American newspapers (or other types of text), I first assumed that the narrator was black. However, the more I read, the more I felt that this person was from the African American community. This is not based on his knowledge or opinions on the topic of African American spirituals, but the language he used to speak on the topic was from an outsider point of view. In this sentence, “No race is more devotional than the African and to no class of people does the camp meeting revival prove so effectual as with them.” it sounds like Curtis is making statements based on his own observations of Africans and African Americans as an outsider.

Whether or not Curtis is African American, his points are huge generalizations and he doesn’t really use specific examples to illustrate these points. This definitely would not slide in a modern-day discussion (especially in our class). 

After reading the text over one more time, I have a strong feeling that Curtis is not black.

“‘Sylvan Worship.’.” Weekly Louisianian (New Orleans, Louisiana), September 18, 1875: 1. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12B767D21CB17968%40EANAAA-12BEC31400554038%402406150-12BC002A0EA02018%400-12D621523A4D1068%40%2522Sylvan%2BWorship.%2522.

National Jukebox

I couldn’t help but think about how this process of selecting and digitizing records for the National Jukebox is sort of like the process of creating a digital map. Especially while looking at the fourth picture slide and reading its description, the way they had specific elements that were consistent with each record to easily identify each one is a lot like how we choose specific elements that we would want to show along with our maps. However, the rest of the process is much more tedious. I found it really cool that someone pulls every single copy of the same record, examines their physical conditions, then chooses the best one from that same set of records. This, of course, being after the records are chosen for the National Jukebox. (This process still remains unclear to me but clicking around different links on the websites helped.) It’s like an assembly line. Once a step is completed, they seamlessly move on to the next step and it is nicely shown by the slide of pictures which gives off the feeling of a fixed process with anticipated steps. 

I find this process to be very cool because as you go along, you see and read about how many different people are involved in this National Jukebox creation. This process requires many different people with knowledge in many different specialized fields to carry out each different step. It is no surprise at all that it took the better part of a year (2010) to complete this process.

 

“Making the National Jukebox  :  Articles and Essays  :  National Jukebox  :  Digital Collections  :  Library of Congress.” The Library of Congress. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.loc.gov/collections/national-jukebox/articles-and-essays/making-the-jukebox/#slide-1.

Black Is King

Non-Africans have such a narrow view of what Africa is and its diversity. In recent years, much of the culture, such as dances, music, and food, has become “trendy”. In 2020, Beyoncé released the visual album “Black Is King”. It has been over a year and I still have not seen it. I love Beyoncé. She is one of my biggest role models and the person who got me into music. However, I have an underlying dislike for this body of work. 

As a Nigerian American, it is frustrating to see my culture being glorified after many years of feeling ashamed of my heritage. As a child, I was made fun of for my name, certain words in my vocabulary, and my parents’ accents. I did not want to watch “Black Is King” because I thought it wasn’t fair for Beyoncé to receive so much credit for popularizing the culture that many of us have had to ride for their whole lives. Although I am not saying African culture isn’t their culture and I want Black Americans to feel connected with us, it is exasperating to see them profiting off the culture after it took them so long to fully claim it.

This is almost similar to the creators of the “Map of Slave Songs of the United States” researching and accrediting white abolitionists.

In this text, Ghanaian-American writer and editor Karen Attiah talks about the collaborations Beyoncé made for the “Black Is King” album. Attiah also addresses the criticism Beyoncé received for the album. A one-dimensional view of Africa is that the men are kings and the women are their wives, mothers, and guardians and this perspective is reinforced in “Black Is King”. I think that non-Africans believe this perspective is empowering for us, and it can be, but not when it is the only perspective. This is a narrative that is repeated in The Lion King and Black Panther. These are two of the most popular African-based movies and they share the same father-to-son becoming a king theme for men and wife/mother/guardian theme for women. While I appreciate that some of these stories are trying to bring to light “African culture”, in the long run, this repeated portrayal might do more harm than good. 

In regards to the author of the text, I validate her credibility because she is African. Validation by white american means (PWI education and experience) carries no weight with me in this context. This is completely separate from white people. To me, her validity lies in the fact that she is well connected to her Ghanaian roots and has knowledge of Black America and perceptions of Africa because she has grown up experiencing both.

 

 

Citations:

Attiah, Karen. “‘Black is King’ is Built on Problematic Narratives. Still, its Power is Undeniable.” WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post, last modified Aug 07.

Documenting Native American Song

It’s no wonder that Americans have a narrow, stereotyped understanding of Native American song. On the one hand, there are mass media representations that run from the antiquated and embarrassing…

… to the downright confusing – I’m thinking especially of all the conflations between Indian and Ashkenazi Jewish musical culture in the 1920s and 1930s, including this one, and this one (at the very end). In fact, mass media’s propensity to get Indian song wrong is so cliché that the stereotyping itself has been parodied, most famously in the irreverent Fox cartoon Family Guy:

It’s not so hard to see where these misunderstandings come from. From the colonial era to the present day, the majority of Americans have never encountered Native American song themselves; they have mainly read accounts of it written by others. For example, Chicago’s Newberry Library preserves an 1835 account by John T. Irving, Jr. (accessible via the Adam Matthew database, specifically its “American West” collection) that describes an expedition to the Pawnee Tribes. We “hear” music through Irving’s ears, for example in this description of a group of Indians assembling before a journey:

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Likening the Indians’ song to a “low, and not inharmonious cry,” a “wailing moan,” and a “mournful chant,” Irving doesn’t really tell us what the “dirge” or “death song” sounds like. Rather, he sets the sounds he heard apart from what his readers might know; he renders the Native American song utterly Other.

It’s unfortunate that accounts like Irving’s have been more influential than systematic, respectful attempts to document Native American song, like that of Frances Densmore. A native of Minnesota, Densmore undertook an enormous study of Native American culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries under the aegis of the Bureau of American Ethnology, a branch of the Smithsonian Institution. Densmore’s prescience about the misrepresentations referenced above borders on the prophetic. In 1927 she wrote, “There is danger that the future will form its opinions of Indians from the sentimental movies and the theater music when the Indian is seen through the bushes. Neither the “love lyric” nor theater tom-tom music are genuinely Indian, in the best sense” (Qtd. in this Smithsonian Institute online archive; see footnote 5 for archival citation).

Building on the pioneering work of Alice Fletcher, another ethnologist and collector of Indian Song, Densmore published dozens of book-length accounts of music making by individual tribes, including a volume on Pawnee music.

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Her description of Pawnee music is nothing like Irving’s. Here’s an excerpt: “An important point, made evident in this comparative analysis, is the individuality of Pawnee music. It is distinct, in its entirety, from the songs of other tribes, though bearing a resemblance to one tribe or another in separate characteristics. The study of Indian music by an established system of analysis shows there are characteristics that are common to Indian songs of various tribes and different from the music of the white race, and also characteristics which distinguish the songs of one tribe from those of another. Among the former is the change of measure-lengths found in many Indian songs and the downward trend of the melody…” (Frances Densmore, Pawnee Music [New York: Da Capo Press, 1972, reprint of 1929 ed. issued as Bulletin 93 of Smithsonian Institution]). Below is another excerpt from the book, this one including a piece she transcribed from a recording made by one of her research associates.

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Densmore took Indian music as seriously as it deserved to be taken, and as a result, created an incredibly rich resource for anyone who’d like to know what music Native Americans actually made.

Other Resources:

Books by Densmore at the Carleton and St. Olaf Libraries

Minnesota Public Radio profile of Densmore

Libguide on Densmore created by the Minnesota History Center

Edward Curtis’s Photographic Ethnography of American Indians, hosted by the Library of Congress’s American Memory Project