Folk Music in The United States

Indian Music of the United States   

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Indian Music of the United States                                            33

This song refers to the fact that in the game a bullet is hidden in one of a row of moccasins. The song is evidently sung after the opposing team has made several unsuccessful attempts to find it.

Let us briefly turn to the structure of some of the meaningless-syllable texts. These, although they do not communicate anything specific, nevertheless leave an impression of rhythm and form which causes them to be remembered by the Western listener. They sometimes have about them a quality of rigidity and firmness as well as euphony which makes them an essential part of Indian poetry; and perhaps they correspond to Western poetry more closely than do the meaningful Indian texts. Because of their sensuous quality they can be enjoyed on an abstract level similar to that of music. I quote an example of a Shawnee Peyote song text:

He ne ne yo yo (five times)

He ya ne, he yo ea he ya ne (twice)

Yo ho ho, yo ho ho, he ya na

He yo wa ne hi ya na, he ne yo we.

The patterns and rhythms of this text correspond rather closely to the patterns of the melody. Peyote songs, as I have already said, are new to most North American Indians, and their music as well as their syllable sequences differ from those of other Indian songs. Most Peyote songs make use of syllables and groups of syllables similar to those in the text above, and certain characteristic meaningless "words" are found in many songs.^"^ Among these are "he ya na," "y^ wi ci ni," "he yo wi ci na yo." Most other Indian songs have their meaningless syllables restricted to the consonants y, w, h, and n plus a vowel. Still, there are always patterns which recur and, most interesting of all, the syllables remain the same from one performance to the next. Thus they must be considered essential parts of the poetry in spite of their lack of meaning.

Questions of text lead us to ask whether the music of Indian songs expresses anything of the subject matter, feelings, or emo~

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