Recording Culture: Powwow Music and the Aboriginal Recording Industry on the Northern Plains

Recording Culture: Powwow Music and the Aboriginal Recording Industry on the Northern Plains

by Christopher A. Scales
     
 

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Recording is central to the musical lives of contemporary powwow singers yet, until now, their aesthetic practices when recording have been virtually ignored in the study of Native American expressive cultures. Recording Culture is an exploration of the Aboriginal music industry and the powwow social world that supports it. For twelve years, Christopher A.

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Overview

Recording is central to the musical lives of contemporary powwow singers yet, until now, their aesthetic practices when recording have been virtually ignored in the study of Native American expressive cultures. Recording Culture is an exploration of the Aboriginal music industry and the powwow social world that supports it. For twelve years, Christopher A. Scales attended powwows—large intertribal gatherings of Native American singer-drummers, dancers, and spectators—across the northern Plains. For part of that time, he worked as a sound engineer for Arbor Records, a large Aboriginal music label based in Winnipeg, Canada. Drawing on his ethnographic research at powwow grounds and in recording studios, Scales examines the ways that powwow drum groups have utilized recording technology in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the unique aesthetic principles of recorded powwow music, and the relationships between drum groups and the Native music labels and recording studios. Turning to "competition powwows," popular weekend-long singing and dancing contests, Scales analyzes their role in shaping the repertoire and aesthetics of drum groups in and out of the recording studio. He argues that the rise of competition powwows has been critical to the development of the powwow recording industry. Recording Culture includes a CD featuring powwow music composed by Gabriel Desrosiers and performed by the Northern Wind Singers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Recording Culture is an exceptional contribution to knowledge about contemporary Native American cultural initiatives. Within studies of powwow music, it is unique in its focus on aspects of CD production and issues related to the commodification of Native culture. It also provides original insights into matters such as the subtleties of drum beats, the evolving distinctions between song forms, and the criteria for judging powwow music. Christopher A. Scales's experience as a producer, as well as an ethnomusicologist, is particularly significant, since the material that he analyzes is not easily accessible outside the recording studio."—Beverley Diamond, author of Native American Music in Eastern North America: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture

"This is a fascinating study, at once deeply historical and thoroughly contemporary. Through his detailed exploration of the shifting ethics and aesthetics of powwow performance, Christopher A. Scales insightfully shows us how the powwow has always been a contemporary practice of identity negotiation."—David W. Samuels, author of Putting a Song on Top of It: Expression and Identity on the San Carlos Apache Reservation

Ethnohistory - Grant Arndt
"Recording Culture is conceptually sophisticated in approach and ethnographically detailed in its content.... Recording Culture [is] a pivotal addition to the literature on the powwow, the most widespread and dynamic vehicle of indigenous expressive culture in native North America."
Anthropological Quarterly - Jason Baird Jackson
“While the book makes a clear contribution to the interdisciplinary field of indigenous studies, the work will also be of interest to scholars in cultural anthropology, folklore studies, and the author’s field of ethnomusicology. With this new title, Duke University Press continues its work of publishing important scholarship in Native American and indigenous studies that advances the field while consciously reaching beyond it to make accessible contributions of interest to scholars working outside its boundaries.”
Journal of American Studies - Clide Ellis
“This is an important, far-ranging discussion that deepens our understanding of powwow music in new and important ways.”
ARSC Journal - Nicky Belle
Recording Culture will serve as an excellent resource for anyone who has never been to a powwow or who knows little about powwow dancing or music.”
American Indian Quarterly - John Cline
“An ambitious book on an important and all- too- oft en underrepresented topic pertaining to the musicking of American Indians: the struggle over the control of representation via mechanically reproducible recordings.”
Great Plains Quarterly - Luke Eric Lassiter
“…A study that is both descriptive and theoretically sophisticated… Scales pulls off a remarkable study, one that every student of indigenous song traditions should read.”
Journal of Anthropological Research - Kristina Jacobsen-Bia
"This engaging book will be of interest to ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, non-specialists interested in powwow music and contemporary indigenous culture, and scholars in Native American and indigenous studies."
Ethnomusicology Forum - Thomas G. Porcello
“The book certainly has more interdisciplinary reach than is overtly written into it; those who work in performance studies and media studies will find much of interest, especially around issues related to the live and recorded production of music. Recording Culture is a welcome and significant contribution both to the study of Native and powwow music and performance, and to studies of the relationship between live and recorded musical expression.”
American Anthropologist - Susan M. Taffe Reed
“Christopher A. Scales’s Recording Culture is a groundbreaking book that seamlessly combines two research areas that have rarely been examined together and that few scholars have the capacity to write on: Aboriginal powwow music and the recording industry.”
American Indian Culture and Research Journal - T. Christopher Aplin
"Recording Culture and its accompanying CD are incomparable educational resources for the classroom.... Firmly grounded in ethnomusicological and community-based tradition, it is a flavorful description of the most widespread, colorful, living-breathing musical form known to indigenous peoples across Turtle Island."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822353232
Publisher:
Duke University Press Books
Publication date:
11/12/2012
Series:
Refiguring American Music
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Christopher A. Scales is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Michigan State University.

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