Native American Music: A Root of Contemporary Music Yet Explored
What is Native American Music?
As our class brainstormed ideas for research, I already knew what topic I wanted to explore. Having been a musician, closely involved with music my entire life, I directed my focus toward Native American music. Before I began to develop any sort of directed, narrowed research questions, I asked myself first, “What is Native American music?” Regarding various definitions of the so-called “genre,” I discovered that Native American music shouldn’t be typified into any genre or defined style of music. It was the perspective toward music that was ...view middle of the document...
It is not restricted to “creation myths or the idea of traditions reaching back into the origin of society; it is possible for the individual, at any time, to get in touch with higher powers and peak experience.” (Native American Music, 1980, p. 13) Whether it was dreams, revelations, visions, or memorable experiences, such material was received in the form of songs. To create songs or compose music was never a formality to indigenous peoples.
This outlook contrasts the “tradition of Euro-American scholarship to codify, classify, and categorize” (Native American Music, 1980, p. 4) and differs from the Euro-American awareness of form, construction, and formal teaching. In the “sophisticated” Euro-American culture, music was usually written down in some form of notation, whereas songs within Native American cultures were often passed down through elders. The Euro-American emphasis on complexity of style, music theory, and musical notation led to a classification of Native American music as colloquial or folk. However this implies a lack of sophistication, being that folk music is often equated with no awareness of form or construction, or formal technique of teaching. Again, this upholds to the Euro-American tendency to categorize, and is an outlook that we must avoid. When reading this paper, it is pertinent to consider Native American music not as a style or genre, but unique in its inspiration, method of creation, and philosophy.
After clarifying how to define Native American music, I directed my focus to discovering the scope of influence it had on the music culture we are familiar with today. Originally, I aimed to help my reader understand whether aspects of Native American music have influenced larger bodies of music or other music genres. Fortunately, the emphasis of individuality and freedom of expression in indigenous music led me to a parallel with the origins of blues music, and similarities with blues music’s definition and functional expression. Through this correlation I found the direction of my paper, proving that Native American music is deeply ingrained in modern music, and is not absent, but overlooked in its influence and involvement in blues music and the broader American music culture.
Native Blues: A Cloudy History, A Clear Connection
Time and Place
Similar to the obscurity in the origins of Native American music, the precise origins of blues music are ambiguous and difficult to define as well. Before the genre was documented, this style of music had existed and had been evolving over time, before the term blues had even been coined. However, the first traces and documentation of the style came at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It is said that the blues began as a type of African American folk music, originating around the plantations of the “deep south.” Mentioned in an article written in 2011, titled The Origins of the Blues, it was in Northwestern Mississippi, in an area...