Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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I48 THE AMERICAN INDIANS
tively little disturbed by the influx of other musics; 2) the Negro, which is a result of the combinations, in varying degrees, of African with European styles; and 3) the folk music of the European immi­grant groups—English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, etc.— which have both retained archaic materials and developed new forms. There is little doubt any more that the American Indians came from Asia, across the Bering Straits, in several or many separate waves, beginning some 50,000 years ago; that they are Mongoloid in race; and that the simplest tribes were pushed to the edges of the area (Tierra del Fuego, for example) and into relatively undesirable spots such as the jungles of Brazil and Bolivia, the Great Basin area of Nevada and Utah, and the tundra of Northern Canada and the icy wastes of the Polar area. While we realize that in 50,000 years there must have occurred a great deal of change in the styles and uses of Indian music, and while we know practically nothing about the mu­sic of East Asia of thousands of years ago, it is still possible to dis­cover certain similarities between Indian and Oriental music, and especially between the musics of the Eskimos and of the Paleo-Siberian tribes living in easternmost Siberia. These similarities involve emphasis on melody rather than on polyphony, some use of relatively large intervals (thirds and fourths) in the melodies, and—possibly—a rather strained, tense-sounding vocal production. On the other hand, there are many different styles and style areas in North and South America, and music of the simplest sort as well as musical cultures of great complexity are found. The latter had largely disappeared by the time ethnomusicologists became competent to deal with them and they can be studied only by archeological techniques; but some of the simplest styles are still with us. The size of the Indian popula­tion seems always to have been small; north of Mexico there were probably never more than one or two million, while South and Middle American Indians evidently never exceeded about five mil­lion. That such a small number of people developed so varied and intensive a musical culture is a fact that should inspire in the modern reader a good deal of respect. Except for the similarity among the simplest tribes in both continents, there is today a great difference between South and North American Indians as a whole: The South American tribes, for the most part, have been absorbed into the His­panic-American cultures, to which they have contributed greatly, and whose music they have to a large degree adopted; thus, for a knowledge of their aboriginal music we must depend on a few iso-







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III