Section Two:
Native American Music
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• Eastern Woodlands
– Eastern Sedentary in
Canada
– North-east and Southeast in USA
• Plains
• Southwest & California
• Great Basin
• Intermountain Plateau
(largely in Nevada and
Utah)
• Northwest Coast & Far
North
– Western Subarctic
– Arctic
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Approximately 1000 tribal units, almost as
many languages, and about 60 independent
language families in North America
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Music Contexts
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Religion
Social dances
Games
Calendar rituals and events in the life
cycle.
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Supernatural Elements
• Some individuals, special relationship with
music
• Form of prayer
• Imparted to the humans by spirit beings
– Dreams
– Visitations
– At the legendary time of the tribe’s origin.
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Music and Function
• Judged less by musical criteria
• More by how well it fulfilled religious and
other functions (providing food, etc.)
• Learn through direct experience.
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Music and Dance
• Music and dance are closely related.
• Unite members with spirits of their ancestors.
• Circular pattern, steps, hand gestures, intricate
designs on costumes or face have symbolic
meaning.
• Dancers often sing, use rattles, sound-makers.
• The structures of music and dance often
connected.
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Some General Characteristics For
Native American Vocal Music
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Monophonic; singing in octaves.
Vocables.
Repetition.
Descending contour.
Melodies employ small note collections;
tendency of “la” to “do”.
• Accompanied by percussion instruments,
usually equally spaced beats.
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Much Sharing
• Musical boundaries fluid and permeable
• Powwow music, often glottal tension,
pulsations on longer notes, and high-pitch
or falsetto singing.
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Traditional Instruments
• Idiophones: rattles, stick instruments, log drums,
etc.
• Membranophones: single-headed or doubleheaded drums; kettledrums, sometimes filled
with water.
• Chordophones: almost nonexistent
• Aerophone: flute, made of wood, cane, and
sometimes pottery.
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Similarities & Regional Differences
• Rhythms are usually straight and regular, or free and
without meter.
• Melodic content of chants is “diatonic,” sung by solo or
group.
• Music often tied to other functions.
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Southwest Region
• Includes Pueblo peoples such as Hopi, Zuni, and
also Apache and Navajo.
• Navajo and Apache singers can sound tense
with nasal high vocal style.
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•Pueblo: vocals sound more open, relaxed,
longer and complex; words about water, spirit
beings, symbolism.
–Hopi Entering Kiva
–Badger Song
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Zuni Sunrise Song
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Modern Music Styles
• Ghost Dance songs.
• Fun 49er songs at powwows.
• Chicken Scratch
• Country, Rock & Folk songs.
– Blackfoot - 80s hard rock
– Joanne Shenandoah - Iroquois
• New Songs that define Indian-ness.
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Modern Music Styles - cont.
• Flute music
• Traditional Plains instrument (5 & 6 hole
flute of cedar) and smaller Apache “spirit
flute”
• Now used by many tribes and peoples
– R. Carlos Nakai – Shaman’s Call
Cedar 6-hole flute
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Powwows - Contemporary
• Usually Feature Intertribal Styles
• Most associated with Plains music; held throughout the
country.
• Powwows in this area: usually mid-November, Native
American Arts & Crafts Festival and Powwow, Ozark
Empire Fairgrounds, Springfield, MO; also Southwest
Missouri Indian Center, 2422 W. Division, Springfield,
MO 65802, phone (417) 869-9550
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Powwows (cont.)
More Secular
• More open; various tribes and non-Native
peoples.
• Professional singers/composers/dancers,
judged primarily by musical criteria.
• Secular with religious undertones; prayers
often opening events.
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Pan-Tribal; with “Drum” Groups
• Represent many tribes and music
• Revolve around the ‘drum’, a group of
singers seated at large bass drum. Each
singer has a drum beater, play and sing
in unison.
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Tribal “Drums”
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Navajo Traditions
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Navajo Way of Life
• Largest tribe; communities and
reservations in New Mexico, Arizona, and
Utah
• Have economic impact on region
• Sources of livelihood include coal,
uranium, oil, natural gas, lumber; to a
lesser degree farming, raising stock,
weaving, and silversmithing
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General Characteristics
of the Navajo
• Some government support for education,
health care, business
• Costume/dress: men, Western, cowboy
hats; women skirts and blouses; both wear
jewelry
• Houses, modern stucco houses, trailer
homes; some old-style circular log & earth
hogans
• Ceremonial buildings: circular floors,
domed roofs; symbolizes earth,
mountaintops,
sky
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History of the Dance
Among the Navajo
• Until 1940s, dance songs from
ceremonials; particularly Enemyway
dance songs
• 1990s: recreational pastime: “song
and dance”
• Social dancing, dancers judged on
costumes and dancing skill
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We will be looking at the music in
two popular ceremonial events
• A Yeibichai song from the Nightway
ceremony
• The song “Shizhanee” from the
Enemyway ceremony
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Yeibichai Song from the
Nightway Ceremony
• One of the most exciting kinds of Navajo
music
• Yeibichai (YAY-beh-chai) means “gods
their grandfathers” and refers to ancestor
deities who come to dance at the Nightway
ceremony
• Masked dancers impersonate the gods
• They bring supernatural power and
blessing to help a sick person
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Yeibichai Song (cont.)
• Features of the music: piercing falsetto;
swoops down for more than an octave;
primarily vocal music (vocables);
sometimes with rattles and drums, and
rarely with flutes and one-stringed fiddles;
no harmonies; melodic and rhythmic
sophistication
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The Singers and Dances
• Teams of men from a particular region, no
women singers
• The teams compete, and best receives a
gift the family hosting the event
• Will include costumes, masks, a clown
figure
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The Ritual
• Dance occurs on the last night of a
nine-day ritual
• Will include purification activities,
prayer offerings, sand-painting rituals
• Then a reenactment of the myth on
which the ceremony is based. Like a
complex opera
• Directed by the singer who must
memorize every detail; considered an
intellectual and ceremonial leader
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Transcription
of the
Yeibichai
Song
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The Circle Dance Song
Shizhané’é
• The Ndaa dance songs are the ‘hit tunes’
of traditional Navajo life
• Shizhané’é is easier to sing with not as
many high falsetto sounds, or vocables
• Includes humorous lyrics about woman
leaning against a store front
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The Enemyway Ceremony
• Curing Ritual for returning to tribal life
• Shizhané’é is one of the songs used in the
ceremony
• Sickness is brought on by the ghosts of
outsiders who have died
• Often performed for someone who has
been away from home among strangers
(in the Armed Forces or in the hospital)
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The Ceremony
• Ceremony involves two groups of
participants:
– Home camp
– Stick receiver’s camp, the enemy, who are
custodians of a stick decorated with symbols
that include the Enemy Slayer, the warrior
deity; and the Changing Woman, his mother
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First Night
• Singing and dancing at the “stick receiver’s
camp”
• Begins with Sway songs (courtship songs but
often only vocables)
• Then dance songs, “ladies’ choice”
• Then a signal song indicates change back to
Sway songs, maybe all night
• Stop at dawn for rest and breakfast
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Second Day
• After rest and breakfast, gift songs
• “Home camp” people sing outside the
main hogan of the “stick receiver’s camp”
• Gifts are exchanged, like war booty
• The “stick receiver’s camp” moves
toward the “home camp”
• Another night of singing and dancing
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Third Day
• Mock battles
• Circle dance at the “stick receiver’s” new
camp; songs like “Shizhanee” are sung
• The “stick receiver’s” go to the “home
camp” and sing four songs that mention
the name of the enemy
• Night of ceremonial songs (sway songs,
dance songs, signal songs, sway songs)
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Fourth Day
• Sunrise blessing ritual, and enemy departs
• Then four days of rest
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Newer Navajo Music
• Christian hymns, some Mormon influence;
evangelical Christianity
– “Clinging to a Saving Hand” (CD 1:10)
• Native American Church (Peyote Church)
– (CD 1:9)
• Country music
– “Folsom Prison Blues” (CD 1:7)
• The Native-American Flute Revival
• New Composers in Traditional Modes
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HOMEWORK due Monday, January 30
• ASSIGNMENT 2
– Study Questions, p. 66: #1, 2
– Compare & Contrast the Sioux Grass Dance
with the Navajo Yeibichai Song; how do these
songs compare with the Zuni Blessing/Sunrise
Song and “Shaman’s Call” that we listened to
in class? Describe Fully.
• ONLINE QUIZ: Chapter 2
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Lecture Three: Native American Music