Traditional Hopi Songs - online book

Native American Songs With Sheet Music, Notation & Commentary

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
66                                          HOPI SONGS
attitude more or less constrained, perhaps without customary compan­ionship in the song, before an awe-inspiring apparatus in rapid motion, a primitive musician can hardly be expected, it may be claimed, to give renditions at the command of a stranger which would be nearly enough like his natural performance to be worth studying carefully. Yet as far as my experience in taking phonographic records of non-European music goes, it tends to negative this critical claim. I venture to think it is in good measure founded upon a wrongful attribution to exotic peoples of our European habitudes of self-consciousness. A Kwakiutl Indian, whose performance before a phonograph I once heard through Dr. Boas's kindness, sheepish as was his air before beginning, when once buried in his song crooned away as simply and unhesitatingly as if he had been squatting on damp stones in a circle of his mates by a British Columbian river, instead of being seated in an office amid inquisi­tive Americans. Among Javanese and Syrians I have found, as I had before among Chinese, neither constraint nor indifference, but instead a very lively interest in and delight over the instrument, and great pride at being selected as spokesmen to this marvelously docile echo. Dr. Fewkes tells me that his experience in recording the performances of the Hopi was very similar. The Snake Chants had all to be repeated to the old priest who sang them; and not until they had passed his censorship, and he had breathed upon the cylinders, would he consent to give the records over. To give this skeptical surmise much weight in the valuation of the present notations it must be better substantiated than it is now. Nor would distrust of them involve a condemnation of the phonograph; for if it is possible to defeat a rogue's efforts to ruin his photograph for identification, it can hardly be impossible to aid a primitive performer's efforts to make a phonogram of his performance a true representative of the art it illustrates.
Possible improvements of method which suggested themselves in the course of writing down these performances are the following: Some entanglements with the interval sense might be avoided in the work of notation by such an adjustment of the phonograph mechanism as would permit the performance of the inscribed music backward. This device
Previous Contents Next