Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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THE AMERICAN INDIANS I49
lated tribes. The North American tribes have generally remained more separate from their white and Negro compatriots and seem to have preserved earlier musical styles to a much greater degree. For this reason, and because South American Indian music is not yet well known, our emphasis in this chapter must be on the North American Indians.
The simplest stylesan example -from Bolivia
Among some Indian tribes we find music as simple as any in the world. Melodies with only two or three tones, and with a single phrase which is repeated imprecisely many times, can be found in several areas. The Siriono of Bolivia are an interesting example,1 for they contradict one of the truisms often repeated about the "earliest" music: rather than fulfilling ritual functions, it seems to be used mainly for entertainment. The Siriono have no instruments and only a few simple tunes. They sing in the evening after dark, and in the morning, in their hammocks, before beginning the day's activities. The words of the songs are evidently improvised and deal with all kinds of events, past and present, assuming in a way the role of con­versation. The songs usually have descending melodic contour and are sung with a "decrescendo" as the singer's breath runs out. Curi­ously, it seems that each member of the tribe has one tune that is the basis of all the songs he sings. He makes up different words but uses one and the same tune—possibly throughout his life. Even in such a simple musical culture there are some individuals who are said to be superior singers and who teach the young people to sing. Example 8-1 illustrates a Siriono song.
example 8-1. Siriono Indian song, from Mary Key, "Music of the Siriono (Guaranian)," Ethnomusicology VII (1963), 20.
1 Mary Key, "Music of the Siriono (Guaranian)," Ethnomusicology VII (1963), 17-21.







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