"Among the Indians, music envelopes like an atmosphere every religious, tribal, and social ceremony as well as every personal experience. There is not a phase of life that does not find expression in song," wrote Alice C. Fletcher. The famous anthropologist published A Study of Omaha Indian Music in 1893. With the single exception of an 1882 dissertation, it was the first serious study ever made of American Indian music. And it was the largest collection of non-Occidental music published to date, ninety-two songs, all from a single tribe.
Fletcher and Francis La Flesche, her Omaha coworker and adopted son, divided the songs into three categories: religious ones, to be sung by a certain class either through initiation or inheritance; social ones, involving dances and games, always sung by a group; and ones to be sung singly, including dream songs, love songs, captive songs, prayer songs, death songs, sweat lodge songs, and songs of thanks. John Comfort Fillmore, a professional musician, added a "Report on the Structural Peculiarities of the Music."
Those interested in a vital aspect of Indian culture will want to own this book, which contains the musical scores as well as the native-language words for the songs.
About the Author
Helen Myers is an associate professor of music at Trinity College and the author, with Bruno Nettl, of Folk Music in the United States: An Introduction. She is the editor of Ethnomusicology: Historical and Regional Studies.