Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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have elaborate curing rituals accompanied by several series of songs, and a large body of corn grinding songs. The Indians of the South­eastern United States have many kinds of social dances. Throughout, music is associated with religion, and no description of a ceremony would be complete without a discussion of the songs. In most tribes, the most significant musical creations are those in the ceremonies. Among the Eskimos, some songs are used to settle disputes and to re­lieve tension among quarreling tribesmen.
Music in Indian thought
We have only little knowledge regarding the musical aesthetics of Indian tribes. Ability to sing many songs, and to sing high, is the mark of a good singer on the Plains; the Pueblo Indians, on the other hand, prefer singers with low, growling voices. Songs are judged according to their "power" rather than their beauty. Various ideas regarding the origin of songs are found among the North American tribes. According to some, all songs were given to the tribe in "the beginning," and the idea that new songs can be made up is not ac­cepted. Among the Yuman tribes of the extreme Southwest, songs are thought to be "dreamed," that is, made up or given to a person while he is asleep.2 Curiously, Yuman persons who are disturbed or emotionally maladjusted retire for a few weeks to a secluded hut, there to meditate and to "dream" songs, and they eventually emerge much improved. Among the Pima of the Southwest, we find the idea that songs already exist, and that it is the job of the composer simply to "untangle" them. Among the Plains tribes, the idea that songs come in visions is prevalent; of course all songs do not come in this way, but those which are ceremonially most significant do. The pos­sibility of learning songs from other tribes is accepted variously; Herzog found that the Pima, who sang songs with Yuma words, would not admit that these songs could have been imported. On the other hand, Plains tribes regularly label the songs borrowed from other tribes; thus the Cheyenne Indians have "Kiowa songs" and "Comanche songs."
The degree to which songs retain their form from year to year
2 George Herzog, "Music in the Thinking of the American Indian," Pea-body Bulletin, May, 1933, pp. 1-6.

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