Roy E. Howard, Ph.D.
Gallup Graduate Studies Center, Western New Mexico University
e-mail | Vita
Samples of Navajo music transcriptions by Roy E. Howard:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
Go to Presentation on Continuum of Native American Music
There are many styles of Indian music
throughout North and South America. The cultures of the south
had a very distinct development from those of the north. Then,
for the past 400 years, the cultures of the Indians have blended
so thoroughly with the European and African cultures, that a distinction
of musical style that is strictly Indian cannot accurately be
described for the Indians of Mexico and further south.
On the other hand, the isolation of the North American Indian peoples had tended to preserve language, religion, and music in a form that can be studied and appreciated today much as it existed in antiquity. However, a single style cannot be described. Nearly 1000 tribal groups speaking almost that many different languages in 50-60 different language families make it difficult to categorize the music. However, many common traits can be found.
1. Purpose. Music is rarely performed for its own sake, but is usually associated with a specific activity or rite such as ceremonies for treating the sick, bringing success in battle, at the time of death, passage to the next age group, games, gambling, dancing, courtship, children's songs, dreams, and visions.
2. Style. Most is vocal with simple percussion accompaniment. Most is monophonic, that is, melody only without the polyphony and part singing of European style music. Men usually have the lead in singing and often use strident, harsh, tense tones.
3. Scale. The scales used are not those common to the European style. Scales used in order of frequency are: the pentatonic, hexatonic and tetratonic. Most tribes also have simple 2 or 3 note melodies for children and for gambling. Samples of scales (or similar intervals from another starting pitch, using accidentals)
pentatonic: c d f g a
hexatonic: c d e f g a
tetratonic: e d c b or a g f e
4. Instruments. Although the African, European and Oriental cultures each developed varying types of string, wind and percussion instruments, and wind instruments were common in South America, only some tribes used flutes in North America. Most instruments fall into these categories:
rattles in a wide variety of styles and purposes
bells of different sizes
drums beaten with sticks
flutes, used by some tribes to double the voice part or in courtship
5. Composing and performing. Many believe that music comes from the spirits. It already exists, the composer unravels them. They are often given in dreams or visions. The medicine man does most of the composing and performing. Men usually take the lead in performing.
1. Eskimo - NW Coast styles. Complex rhythms, especially in the drum parts. Melodies often use very small intervals such as minor seconds (half steps). The Klinkets of Alaska use melody and harmony inspired by contacts with the Russians.
2. California - Yuman area. Phrases are short, sometimes with repeated sections alternating with a section of higher pitch.
3. Great Basin - Nevada, Utah, Northern California. Melodic form is aabb (each phrase is repeated).
4. Plains-Pueblo. Harsh, tense, pulsating vocal technique. Descending, terrace-like melodic movement. Melodic form has a stanza consisting of two sections that are identical except that the second is an incomplete repetition of the first. Pueblo music is far more complex than Plains.
5. Eastern Tribes. Similar to Plains-Pueblo, but occasionally use responsorial singing (their group repeats after the lead singer as in much of the African music). Also has more regular rhythmic units with some isorhythmic structure (regular repetition of a set of time values).
6. Athabascan (Apache and Navajo). Simple rhythms, usually with two note values (eighth, quarter). The singing style is slightly nasal and relatively free of pulsations. Often prefer a high vocal register. They use intervals approximating thirds more often than other regions. The range of the melodies varies from a fifth to a large range. Some songs alternate between phrases using a low, repeated note with one using a flowing melody sung in a high, strident falsetto.
Most Indian poetry is sung. Song texts use verbal structures that are not common to spoken language. Many songs have the words surrounded by syllables for words that are borrowed, foreign or meaningless. In this way, the singer is constantly adding both rhythm and melody,thus fulfilling both the vocal, and the instrumental roles as used in music of other cultures. For example, most of the music of the US today has rests and long held notes during which the accompanying instruments have a predominant role. the Indian musician does those fills with his voice. For some types of songs, the words can go with only the original melody. Some tribes don't mind putting the words with various different melodies.
Modern Indian Music
Most cultures undergo a continual evolution or development of musical style as well as styles of speech and dress and other customs. In modern popular music, for example, we can easily distinguish between the styles of music of the 1940's. Swing with the big bands and the 1950's Rock with the guitar bands. The disco music of the 1970's bars little resemblance to either. It seems strange to an outsider looking in, at first glance, that the Indian cultures seem not to have been affected by and evolution in musical style.
Highly urban societies such as the Aztecs, Mayas, Incas, Germans, English, Japanese, etc., made possible the practice of specialization of trades and leisure time activities. Art, science, literature and music developed and changed at a fast rate. In the pastoral and nomadic cultures of North America, small tribal units depended on the spiritual leaders to preserve the most sacred traditions of the group. Included in these sacred and special categories was music. Today, most of the music of the various tribes is sacred or is derived from sacred traditions. The tribes are reluctant to share sacred traditions with others and hold tightly to the old traditions, especially the music in the face of drastic changes in their way of life brought on by the encroaching towns and schools of the White man. The 1960's and 1970's saw a particularly strong resurgence of interest in the preservation of such traditions.
Pan-Indian Movement. One organized attempt at preservation of traditions is the inter-tribal, Pan-Indian Movement. The tribes use this vehicle as a way to maintain a separate identity from the other American cultures and to develop a sense of larger community with one another. The underlying philosophy seems to be that Indian culture can best be preserved by the merging of tribal differences. This 20th Century music is for general use and entertainment. The style is a mixture of the various tribes with a strong Plains influence. Some English words are used. The songs are designed for a mixed audience for entertainment, not ceremony.
Peyote music. A new pan-indian religion has developed, blending Indian and Christian traditions. The new music that is part of this movement is a more complex version of the Plains form, together with the Athabascan rhythm with a rapid accompaniment of drum and rattle and a high, whining style.
Powwow. The intertribal tradition of the Powwow is a social event and a competition. Performers of dance and song from various tribes gather for this entertaining event. Traditional music and dress give all participants a feeling of community, even with the differences in language and custom. After the competitions, all attending can join in group dances.
Preferences by purchasers. Although the activities and compositions of the professionals in music can tell us much about the culture, the best indicator of the preferences of the people is the market place. Most sub-cultures eventually adopt customs common to the major culture around them. In the case of the Indian people of the Southwest, the biggest record sales are for Country and ester, Gospel, and Peyote music. One interesting phenomenon is that the Indians tend to prefer Gospel music recorded by groups of their own tribe.
Influence of Indian music on art music
Since the White man's earliest contact with the Indians, he has been interested and intrigued by their music. Composers of even symphonic music have used Indian themes and melodies in their works. The following is a sample list.
Edward MacDowell. "2nd Orchestral (Indian) Suite 1896"
C. C. Skilton. "Two Indian Dances and Suite Primeval"
C. W. Cadman. "Thunderbird Suite" and other works
Frederick Jacobi. "Indian Dances"
C. T. Griffes. "Two Sketches on Indian Themes"
Victor Herbert. "Natoma" (opera)
H. W. Loomis, Arthur Farwel, Thurlow Lawrence, Carlos Troyer, Henry F. Gilbert and many others. European composers too, have been impressed and influenced by the beautiful Indian melodies.
Antonin Dvorák. "From the New World" Symphony
F. B. Busoni. "Indianisches Tagebuch"
Especially watch for recordings by Louis Ballard, a contemporary Cherokee Indian composer of modern works using traditional instruments and modes. (Institute of American Arts, Santa Fe).
Publishers of Historical Indian Music
Frances Densmore for the Bureau of American Ethnology
Alice C. Fletcher, Theodore Baker, Benjamin Ives Gilman (early researchers and publishers)
Willard Rhodes, recordings and studies
David P. Mc Allister, Southwest, especially Navajo
Gertrude P. Kurath, dance
Helen H. Roberts, relates musical styles to geographical areas
The Plains tribes during the 18th ad 19th centuries had developed numerous warrior organizations and societies. Each of these societies, such as the Strong Hearts "Cante Tinza", and the Foxes Tokala of the Sioux, had its own songs, dance and dress regulations, and ritual paraphernalia. Each sponsored dances and feasts for its own members and for members of other societies.
|Recording Companies Publishing Indian Music|
|by Lynn Huenemann, NCC, 1982|
|American Indian SoundChief||Rhythm of the Redman|
|1415 Carlson Drive||11 Hospital St.|
|P.O. Box 1627||Chemawa, OR 97306|
|Klamath Falls, OR 97601|
|Songs of the Redman|
|Canyon Records||506 Washington Ave.|
|4143 North Sixteenth Str.||Box 1686|
|Phoenix, AZ 85016||Lawton, OK 73501|
|Everest Records||Soundchief's Enterprise|
|10920 Wilshire Blvd.||1405 Taylor Ave.|
|Los Angeles, CA 90024||Lawton, OK 73501|
|Folkways Records and Service Corp.||Tom Tom Records|
|701 Seventh Avenue||San Juan Pueblo|
|New York, NY||San Juan, NM|
|Indian House||Taylor Museum|
|Box 472||30 West Dale St.|
|Taos, NM 87571||Colorado Springs, CO 80903|
|Indian Records and Supplies||Waltiska|
|Box 47||P.O. Box 243|
|Fay, OK 73646||Albuquerque, NM 87103|
|Iroqrafts||New World Records|
|RR No. 10||3 East 54th Street|
|Ohseken, Ontario, Canada||New York, NY 10022|
|Library of Congress||Native American Music|
|Music Division, Recording Lab||K.D. Edwards|
|Washington, DC 20540||Box 10542|
|Midwest City, OK 73110|
|Navajo Music and Dance|
|Lynn Hueneman, 1982, NCC|
|Diné Bi'ólta' Association||Discovering American Indian Music|
|Navajo Curriculum Center||Bailey Film Associates|
|Navajo Division of Education||2211 Michigan Ave|
|Fort Defiance, Arizona 86504||Santa Monica, CA|
|Diné Biyiin Bidahoo'aahigii||Navajo Night Dances|
|DBA 1971 Summer Workshop||Coronet Films|
|with Douglas Mitchell|
|Spirit of the Navajo|
|DBA Winter Workshop||Center for Mass Communication|
|Navajo Shoe Game Songs||Columbia University Press|
|With Charlie Toledo||1125 Amasterdam Ave|
|DBA, 1973||New York, NY 10025|
|DBA Summer Workshop 1973||Navajo Dancers|
|ÍÍch'oshi, Joo'ashi, hi yadaa nei||Chief Hailstorm Productions|
|and Naash noodahi|
|with Charlie Toledo||Painting with Sand, a Navajo Ceremony|
|University of Washington|
|Navajo Music for the Classroom||A-V Center|
|DBA 1974 Summer Workshop||Seattle, WA 98105|
|with Mae A. Bekis|
|DBA 1970 Summer Workshop||Navajo films|
|from Navajo Curricuum Center,||Blanding Indian Education Curriculum Center|
|Rough Rock Demonstration School||P.O. Box 431|
|Chinle, AZ 86503||Blanding, UT 84511|
|Navajo Music for Classroom Enrichment||Coyote and Skunk|
|with Dollie Yazzie|
|Navajo Music and the Classroom|
|Analysis of one collection (Navajo Music for Classroom Enrichment, Rough Rock Demonstration School, 1970)|
|4||Social, Squaw Dance|
|A4, B4, B5, B6, Elouise Jacksoin|
|1||Traditional Work Song||A15|
|0||Traditional melody and text for children, seasonal|
|4||Traditional melody and text for children, non-seasonal|
|A1, A2, A3, A6|
|#||Traditional melody with new text for children|
|A5, A9, A11, A12, A13, B8, B11, B12, B13, B18, B19|
|Lorene Begay, Marie Arviso, Lorinda Sells, Carolyn Joe, Elouise Jackson, Eleanor Begay,|
|Chabah Watson, Dollie L. Yazzie, Eddie Mike, Diana Mike|
|3||Traditional style with new melody and text|
|A7, A10, B14, Dollie L. Yazzie, Grace McNeley, William Clay, Sadie T. John|
|0||Traditional style with code-switching|
|#||Traditional version of non-Indian melody with new text|
|A8, A13, A14, B7, B9, B10, B15, B16, B17, B20, B21, B22, B23|
|Grace McNeley, Marie Arviso, Lynda Dick, Carolyn Joe, Amelia Watson, Rena Talk, Diana Mike|
|Sadie John, Barbara Henderson, Jerry Hendersoin, Joseph H. Yazzie, Elouise Jackson|
|0||Traditional version of non-Indian melody, translated text|
|0||Contemporary with Navajo Language|
|0||Contemporary Indian in English|
|0||Indian styles integrated with non-traditional instruments|
|0||Minimum Indian styles in pop music|
|0||Non-Indian music translated into Indian language|
|0||Indian themes in non-Indian music|
|#||total songs in collection|
|Side A songs|
|1-Tééldzíbáhí, 2-Ayéhé Bisóodi Halªª'; 3-Bilagáana Nímasiitsoh K'íidíílá; 4-Nidáá' T'éí Haniná;|
|5-Chidí Náat'a'í Ánª; 6-Hayíi¬k£go Na'ahóóhai Ání;7- Hast''shtx¬izhii; 8-Yah Aná'ní¬kaad|
|9-Shibéhé; 10-Ch'íshiibeezhii; 11-Ashkii Ániid Níyá; 12-At¬'ó Bí'díl'a'|
|Side B songs|
|1-Ch'íshiibeezhii T'óó Nizhóníyee'; 2-Haadóone'ª Nílª; 3-Shinanit'a'í Da Nílªª Doo; 4- She'iich'oshí|
|5-Ayéhé Ch'ínó¬t'e'; 6-Doodeeghándí Hónísáago; 7-Hálázhoozh Be'díl'a'; 8-Á¬chíní Nohjeeh; 9-Òªª¬gái;|
|10-tsªª¬go Aad§§ Chidí¬tsooí Yilwo¬;11-Awéé' Ni¬hod; 12-Shiwoo' Y§§; 13-Ó¬ta'góó Diit'ash;|
|14-Shilªª' Ban£'ástso';15-Danohzhóníyee'; 16-Dibé yóó'ííyá; 17-Tsíodii Yázhí Hataa¬; 18-Á¬chíní Bit¬'ízí;|
|19-Hwééldi Di Beenihoot'£n§; 20-Shilééch£ Yázhí; 21-Sammie Nidei'né; 22-Jerry, Jerry; 23-Deenists'aa' Bee Na'nishkaad; 24-Náazbah bidibé; 25-Ak'á Biyiin|
sin bikéet¬'óól song root, essential elements of a song
biyiin his song
ataa¬ to sing
hashtaa¬ I will sing
s¶¶¬ with song
s¶¶¬ naalnish he sings as he works
n'dish'a to go about singing
dahodíítaa¬ let's sing
dinéjí dahodíítaa¬ let's sing in Navajo
dinék'éhgo let's sing in Navajo
dinék'éhjígo let's sing in Navajo
á'aah¬iijí' da' hodíítaa¬ start singing together
nizhónígo hotaa¬ you sing well
yéego wótaa¬ sing louder
ahótaa¬ nizhóníy' keep singing, you're doing well
ha'dish'aah or di'dish'aah to begin a song
ni'íhaa¬ you play the drum
yoozílí or yoo'diits'a' harness bell or dancing bell
yoo' yíchaaí small tinkling bell
yoo' diits'a' bell
yoo' diits'a'í bell ringer
ni' yoo' iichaaí binaniní you play the bells
ásaa' bee yiltzhí drumstick
dilní wind instrument
lóól sound made by flute
adish¬ool to play a flute
agháá¬ ceremonial rattle
nahashch'id agháá¬ badger rattle
ayání agháá¬ buffalo rattle
adee' or agháá¬ nimazígíí gourd rattle
akéshgaan or akéshg agháá¬ hoof rattle
aka¬ agháá¬ leather or rawhide rattle
atsá¬eeh opening songs of a ceremony
at¬'aanáályéél biyiin concluding songs of a ceremony
hataa¬í professional singer, medicine man
akéé' nagháii assistant to the singer
hashtaa¬ biniiyé níyá I have come to sing
bí'díl'a' to be sung about (at the war dance)
yí'dí¬'a' he is singing a song
shí'dí¬'a' he is singing about me
sin bee hashtaa¬ I'm going to sing a song
í'dísh'a' to be humming a song
yishk'aash to sing in high pitched voice
deik'aash they (3 or more) are singing
hastoi deik'aash, sáanii deik'aash, á¬chíní deik'aash
deik'aash refers to the secular style of singing
dahataa¬ they (3 or more) are singing
singing in school, church, or practice for a program
ashkii hataa¬ the boy is singing
at'ééd hataa¬ the girl is singing
a¬chíní hataa¬ the 2 children are singing
a¬chíní dahataa¬ the (3 or more) children are singing
bik'i'hatáá¬ to have a ceremonial sing
ha'dish'aah to burst out in song
bi'niishk'aash to start to sing at a high pitch
nihonishtaa¬ to stop singing, to bring it to a close
Introduction: Flute Interpretations,
Civic Rose Hill Group
Social, Enemy Way Men's Fancy Dance
Traditional Work Song Shinanit'a'í Da Nílªª
Traditional melody and text for children, seasonal
Traditional melody and text for children, non-seasonal
Transitional Sharon Burch
Traditional melody with new text for children
T'óó Nizhónígo O¬ta'
Traditional style with new melody and text Hást't¬izhii
Traditional style with code-switching 49er Song
Traditional version of non-Indian melody with new text
Tsªª¬go Aad§§ ChidíltsoíYilwo¬ (She'll be coming around the mountain)
Traditional version of non-Indian melody, translated text
Ch'íshiibeezhii T'óó Nizhóníyee'
Contemporary with Navajo Language Awee' Nizhónígo
Progressive My Indian Car
Contemporary Indian in English My Indian Car
Indian styles integrated with non-traditional instruments
Ceremonial song + synthezizer
Minimum Indian styles in pop music Pow wows, oil wells...
Translations Amazing Grace
Non-Indian music translated into Indian language
Joy to the World
Referent Késhmish in Navajoland
Indian themes in non-Indian music Tomahawk Hill
Roy E. Howard, Ph.D.
Gallup Graduate Studies Center, Western New Mexico University
e-mail | Vita