Indian Games, Dances & Native Songs - online book

Native American Ceremonials, Sports, and Songs with Sheet Music, Lyrics & Commentary

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With the Indian, words hold a secondary or an un­important place in a song. The music and accompany­ing action, ceremonial or otherwise, convey the meaning or purpose. When words are used they are few, frag­mentary and generally eked out with vocables. Fre­quently only vocables are attached to a melody. To the Indian, song holds a place similar to that filled for us by wordless instrumental music. In ceremonies, rituals occur that are always rhythmically intoned; each line generally terminates in a refrain. Songs have a place in these rituals, breaking in on the recital particularly when an emotion is evoked, for music is the medium of emotional expression. An old Indian priest explained this peculiarity by saying: " Harmonious sounds unite the people."
Unaccustomed as we are to the use of songs that have no words, we would not only find it difficult to under­stand their meaning but we would lose much pleasure when singing them. To obviate the perplexities arising from the Indian's peculiar treatment of words and to make clear the meaning of a song, words have been sup­plied. These words are in no instance a literal trans­lation, for the few broken words that belong to some of the melodies used in these Dances and Games, because of their fragmentary character, would have no value as an interpretation either of the music or of the action. In a number of instances the original vocables are re­tained, where the music is merely a rhythmical accom­paniment to a simple, easily understood movement. Where words are given to a song, they follow closely both the accents and the rhythm of the music. The written
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