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

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

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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

<I>Anthropological Quarterly</I> - 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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822353386
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2012
  • Series: Refiguring American Music Series
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Part I Northern Plains Powwow Culture

1 Powwow Practices: Competition and the Discourse of Tradition 27

2 Powwow Songs: Aesthetics and Performance Practice 63

3 Drum Groups and Singers 112

Part II The Mediation of Powwows

4 The Powwow Recording Industry in Western Canada: Race, Culture, and Commerce 143

5 Powwow Music in the Studio: Mediation and Musical Fields 187

6 Producing Powwow Music: The Aesthetics of Liveness 212

7 Powwows "Live" and "Mediated" 241

Coda: Recording Culture in the Twenty-First Century 268

Appendix: Notes on the CD Tracks 282

Notes 289

References 311

Index 323

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