Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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and from generation to generation also varies. Some tribes, such as those of the Northwest Coast, consider it important to keep a song intact. Change or error might invalidate its purpose in ritual or rob it of its power. Thus organized rehearsing was instituted and errors were punished. The attempt to retain the cultural heritage intact and the resistance to change in general is also felt, of course, in the musi­cal culture. The Pueblo Indians, who have tended to resist change in all areas, have also kept their musical culture away from Western in­fluence more than have some other tribes. The Plains Indians, who had a rather loose and informal political and ceremonial structure, evidently did not adhere to such standardized forms; one Arapaho informant, upon hearing a recording of one of his tribal songs, per­formed what he considered "the same song" by singing what seemed to the investigator a totally different melody.
Musical instruments
The instruments of the North American Indians are relatively few in number, but the Middle and South American tribes had a con­siderable wealth of them. In North America, flutes and various sorts of percussion instruments constitute an overwhelming majority. Flutes are usually of the recorder type, with varying numbers of fin­ger holes; the tunes they are used to perform are frequently those of songs that are also sung. True flutes, without the plug of the re­corder, also appear. In some cases, the ornamentation of the vocal line is faithfully reproduced on the flute; in others, the flute embel­lishes the tune. Flutes are most frequently used to play love songs, and they are played almost exclusively by men. Whistles of various sorts, made of bone, pottery, or wood, are used in conjunction with songs and ceremonies. Drums and rattles are the main percussion in­struments of North America. Drums are usually beaten with sticks rather than the hand, and they (as well as the rattles) are used only to accompany song. Most Indian drums have a single drumhead; some are so large that they can be played by several players simulta­neously. Some are held in on hand, the player grasping the leather thongs that hold the skin against the rim. Kettledrums, sometimes filled with water, are used. The Peyote ceremony requires such a drum, whose drumhead is moistened so that it has what the player

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