The Indian Music Debate and "American" Music in the Progressive Era

October 1, 1997

A little over a hundred years ago, composers and music critics in the United States launched a debate about the viability of an idiomatically American music and whether its roots could be found in folk music. One of the roots under discussion was music of the American Indian. Given every nineteenth-century schoolchild's familiarity with the North American Indian in history and in literary romances, it hardly seems unusual that composers should similarly weave musical fancy around an Indian legend or two. When nineteenth-century composers depicted the North American Indian, they usually did so in one of two rather simplistic ways: either in a poetic, elevated tone (Henry Russell's "The Indian Hunter," 1837); or else in a savage and war-like one (George Frederick Bristow, "Indian War Dance," from The Arcadian Symphony, 1872). These two Indian topoi held the greatest appeal because, as referential musical devices, they lent themselves to dramatic and musical narrative.1

Unlike the American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who created a large marble study on the Hiawatha theme in 1872 then later proclaimed Indian subjects "the youthful sin of every American artist," some composers returned repeatedly to Indian sources, especially in the late 1890s and 1900s.2 These early twentieth-century composers (e.g., Arthur Farwell, Harvey Worthington Loomis, Henry Gilbert, and Horace Alden Miller) turned away from the two paradigms of exoticism explicit in generic musical treatment of "Indians." Their approach to cultural otherness was tempered by the folksong movement, itself a product of American progressivism. By infusing their music with the spirit of Indian life, as others had tried to do in various genres—Edward Curtis with photography and Mary Austin with poetry, for example—composers strove toward contemporaneity and relevancy, thereby hoping to impart a higher purpose to music as art.


The Historical Perspective

When the American Folklore Society was established in January 1888 under the supervision of Franz Boas in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of its primary objectives was to assist in the collection of "the fast-vanishing remains of folklore in America." Lore of the Indian tribes was one of four distinctively North American cultures earmarked for collection. In the first issue of the Society's principal mouthpiece, the Journal of American Folklore, the traditions of the Indian tribes were cited as the richest and most abundant area for documentation.3 This desire to preserve North American folklore no doubt stemmed from similar attempts on the part of Europeans (inspired initially by Herder, a hundred years earlier) to collect their own native folk music. As more and more Native Americans yielded to government-run schools, thereby assimilating into Western concepts of civilization, it seemed that their rituals and myths would eventually be forgotten.

The summary article on "American Indian Music" for the 1938 edition of Oscar Thompson's International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians, written by Charles Sanford Skilton, concludes with the expressed belief that Indian music could only be sustained through incorporation by art-music composers in their own works. Skilton's article began with studies of "aboriginal" music and dovetailed into composers' use of that music, as if the latter were a logical outgrowth (and even continuation) of the former. Though his philosophy remained implicit, Skilton clearly believed that the only "living" Indian music was that "idealized" and expressed in the concert hall.4

Opinions on this type of music were sharply divided. For a paper on American music delivered in 1913—when musical Indianism was ubiquitous—Oscar Sonneck remarked that "some very enjoyable and artistically highly successful experiments" had been accomplished using rhythms and melodies from Indian song (although he didn't name any pieces). He admitted, however, that none of the compositions based on Indian music had as yet attained what he called "high artistic value." "If the American composer's imagination is so poverty-stricken," Sonneck wrote, "that his salvation depends on mortgaging himself to Zunis, Apaches, Chippewas, etc., he might just as well stop composing, since . . . the mere use of folk-songs has absolutely nothing to do with the art-value of compositions."5

Some forty years later, Gilbert Chase noted the passing of a trend. Chase linked all "Indianist" music with nationalist ideologies and refuted, even more categorically than Sonneck, the possible aesthetic achievement or lingering interest in this music, which he viewed as belonging to a transitory—thus extinct—phase of American nationalism. According to Chase,

[Indian music] attracted a number of composers who were looking for something indigenous, something that could immediately and unmistakably be identified as "American." But the fallacy of attempting to create representative American music out of Indian material soon became apparent. Indian tribal music was not part of the main stream of American culture. It was an interesting but essentially exotic branch that one could follow for a time as a digression, a diversion from the European heritage. But if followed to its source it led to a primitive culture that had nothing in common with prevailing norms and trends of American civilization.6

Instead of "utilizing" Indian music (Chase's term), twentieth-century composers are more likely to be interested in tribal music, if at all, "as a manifestation of primitive cultural patterns" than as a possible influence on American music or on a hypothetical musical nationalism.7

Dismissive views such as Sonneck's and Chase's held the dominant critical position in the first three quarters of the twentieth century. Dissenting opinions, however, noted the use of Indian music as (affirmatively) anti-European and anti-Romantic. Writing only two years after Chase, the cultural historian A. Irving Hallowell drew attention to what he interpreted as a conscious effort in the last decade of the nineteenth century to link the interest in Indian music not with nationalist ideologies but with the rising tide of European modernism.

Unlike the situation in Europe, there was no older tradition of folk music in America on which composers might draw. Following this, the "modern" type of musical idiom began to gain ground and some American composers discovered that Indian music had anticipated some of the devices that were being exploited by composers of modern music. It was in this historical context that American composers turned to the Indians.8

Problems regarding notation, for example, had already surfaced in the 1880s and 1890s regarding microtonal intervals of Belakula music, and non-Western scales were commonly cited as a prominent feature of most North American indigenous musics.9 Hallowell, in addition to linking avant-garde musical techniques with Indianist adaptations, saw a positive element of cultural absorption in this activity. In his view, some composers engaged in musical appropriation, i.e., borrowing idioms from another culture, in order to create a fusion of two essentially different musical traditions. After highlighting Edward MacDowell's initial success with his "Indian" Suite—an oddly conservative example but a significant impetus nonetheless—Hallowell adds that an increasing number of American composers

made excursions to the Western reservations. . . . Thus Indian songs were harmonized and arranged for performance by white musicians and Indian themes were handled freely in the composition of original works; an excellent example of the principle of selective borrowing and adaptation of culture elements.10

These views, whether nationalist, preservationist, or modernist, reveal some of the thorny issues inherent in the appropriation of Indian music. The essential incompatibility of style and function suggests that composers' attraction to such music stems less from traditionally hegemonic notions of nationhood and more from a powerful curiosity about difference and a sensibility toward seeking musical language that would express degrees of otherness. A fresh analysis of this phenomenon reveals at least two important and overlooked considerations. First of all, as American identity was shaped partly by the addition of western states and by the annexation of Indian territories, Indian subjects proliferated in American culture generally during the decades straddling the year 1900. Indian subjects found expression in novels, plays, films, fashion, and even graphic design. So-called "Indian music"—often short descriptive pieces—loomed fairly prominently as a part of this aesthetic acculturation. Secondly, the role that the American Indian would play in American society, a debate leading to full citizenship rights in 1924, was heavily under consideration during these years. In order to address the relevant social and political considerations for music, we must first turn to the origins of the Indian music debate in the 1890s. Later in this article, we will encounter many of these issues in the spirited writings of Arthur Farwell, who made explicit the depth of meaningful experience that American Indian music could bring to the creative process.


Dvorák, Fletcher, MacDowell, and the Critics

One of the major catalysts for the persistent interest in Indian music by those who would normally have had little or no contact with Native American culture was Antonín Dvorák and his directives to American composers. His well-known and often quoted suggestion that composers tap into "Negro" and "Indian" themes to arrive at an American music has so often been taken out of context that the issue needs sorting out, particularly in crucial matters of chronology and emphasis. In fact, Dvorák had at first suggested only the use of "the Negro melodies" in his New York Herald article of 21 May 1893 (which appeared within days of the completion of his symphony "From the New World").11 But on 15 December of that year, seven months later, he added Indian music as well (in the phrase that I italicize here).

Since I have been in this country I have been deeply interested in the national music of the Negroes and the Indians. The character, the very nature of a race is contained in its national music. For that reason my attention was at once turned in the direction of these native melodies.12

What happened in those seven months that broadened Dvorák's interests to include Indian music? Between the two Herald articles cited above, he traveled through much of the heart of the eastern United States and ultimately ventured as far west as Omaha, Nebraska. He spent two summer months in Spillville, Iowa. There he saw three Kickapoo and Algonquin Indians (pitchmen Big Moon, John Fox, and John Deer) selling medicinal herbs and performing tribal dances at the local inn.13 He also composed a string quartet in Spillville (F Major, Op. 96), the first movement of which, according to one distinguished Dvorák scholar, exhibits "undeniable Indian influence."14 In mid-August, he attended the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. At his hotel, he received a copy of Alice Cunningham Fletcher's just-published A Study of Omaha Indian Music (June 1893) that was sent to him by John Fillmore on behalf of Fletcher.15 Although Dvorák had heard Indian music before that time, he probably would not have had previous opportunity to study a group of songs in transcription. He also saw and heard Kwakiutl Indians (and possibly Navahos and Iroquois) sing on the Midway Plaisance at the Chicago Exposition. During this same trip he visited the Minnehaha Falls near St. Paul, Minnesota, the spot where he supposedly wrote the theme to the Larghetto of his Sonatina for Violin and Piano, a theme that exhibits "Indian" characteristics.16 In an effort to provide Dvorák with the proper atmosphere for his proposed Hiawatha opera, his patron Jeannette Thurber took him, in her words, "to see Buffalo Bill's Indians dance as a suggestion for the ballet."17 During his visit to the Chicago Exposition on 12 August (for "Czech Day"), Dvorák could not have been more explicit in expressing his belief in a national musical style in the United States:

Every nation has its music. There is Italian, German, French, Bohemian, Russian; why not American music? The truth of this music depends upon its characteristics, its colour. I do not mean to take these melodies, plantation, Creole or Southern, and work them out as themes; that is not my plan. But I study certain melodies until I become thoroughly imbued with their characteristics.18

Despite considerable exposure to Indian music, however, Dvorák actually mentioned it very little in his statements about a national music. His only public reference to his own active interest in Indian music itself occurred in the one article quoted above (the only reference, that is, with the exception of a later instance where he quotes the earlier article and proceeds to qualify it). Curiously, Dvorák had noted in 1892 that, while examining entries for the National Conservatory's composers' competition, he had occasionally come across a work expressing something other than the run-of-the-mill German style, something reflecting "another spirit, other thoughts, another colouring flash[ing] forth, in short, something Indian (something à la Bret Harte). I am very curious how things will develop."19 Dvorák's reception of a copy of Fletcher's book in August of 1893 is an important and often overlooked incident in discussions of the composer's position on a national American style. Only after he had been able to study the harmonized songs in print did he include Indian music in addition to Negro as an alternative to Anglo-Saxon sources. The relatively disinterested opinion of this Bohemian nationalist provided the authoritative written endorsement that composers of "Indian music" needed to enter more "sophisticated" musical circles.

The timing of Dvorák's exposure to American Indian music is important in another respect. It has recently become clear that Dvorák incorporated some sketches for a Hiawatha opera into his symphony "From the New World."20 Unfortunately, there has been a tendency to conflate this compositional activity with his remarks on Indian music. In fact, though, the symphony was complete in full score by 24 May 1893, whereas Dvorák did not see Indians perform in Iowa and Chicago and receive the copy of Omaha music (with Fillmore's harmonizations) until later that summer. By 1895, Dvorák had come to recognize the diversity of American musical experience and in his famous Harper's article "Music in America" expanded the national pool to include all sources of folk musics.21

Dvorák and his followers were not alone in debating the sources for a future American music. Alice Fletcher, for one, harbored strong desires for just such a thing. Comments delivered at the Music Congress at Omaha in 1898 and later included in the introduction to Indian Story and Song (1900) clearly indicate her interest in Indian themes for American music. Remarkably, it appears that such a flame of desire burned much earlier. Fletcher destroyed most of the documents from her early life. Had not an encounter in 1873 with Sidney Lanier been noted in the lawyer's diaries, we might never have known the intensity of the young woman's vision for a national American music. As Joan Mark has recalled:

One early glimpse we have of Alice Fletcher is at a concert in Brooklyn in 1873. Sidney Lanier, a young southern lawyer, had come to the North to try to make a name for himself as a poet and flute player, and he gave a series of small concerts in Brooklyn before moving on to the greater challenge of New York. Lanier included in the program two of his own flute compositions, "Blackbird" and "Swamp-Robin," based on birdsongs in his native Georgia. Alice Fletcher, thinking of her own lawyer father, his boyhood on a farm in New Hampshire, and his reputation as a flute player, was deeply stirred by the music. Afterward she told the startled young southerner that he must become the founder of a truly American music. "Hitherto all American compositions had been only German music done over," she told him, "but . . . these were at once American, un-German, classic, passionate, poetic, and beautiful."

Sidney Lanier was so taken aback by her enthusiasm that he stood speechless. The next day, eager to make a more gracious response, he wrote her a letter of thanks, to which she replied, telling him again how much his music had meant to her. "Your flute gave me that for which I had ceased to hope, true American music, and awakened in my heart a feeling of patriotism that I never knew before." She rejoiced that when she yearned for "the Divine inspiration of music" she no longer had to "worship as if it were in a foreign tongue."22

Though we may never know the reasons, it is tempting to deduce from this early encounter that Alice Fletcher's initial motivation for studying Indian culture was probably as least partly stimulated by her desire to find an indigenous source for American music. When the movement to use folk music sources began to gain momentum in the 1890s, Fletcher could realize this desire by approaching composers such as Dvorák and by attempting to convince them to consider Indian music.23 By the first decade of the twentieth century, the broad base of composers interested in folk music had grown significantly. By then, too, Fletcher's work had become one of the leading sources in this movement.24

Another important catalyst for the interest in Indian music was Edward MacDowell's Second Suite for orchestra (1896). MacDowell, a central figure in American music in the late 1890s, served as a model for other composers. His popular and critical success with this so-called "Indian" suite, coupled with expectations surrounding his career as a nationalist composer—when in fact he abhorred the idea—led others looking for direction to imitate him, even to the point of seeking out Indian sources on which to base their music.25 There was even some competition as to who was the first to become engaged in the Indian music debate, Dvorák or MacDowell. Writings from the early part of the twentieth century are quick to acknowledge that MacDowell began his orchestral work on "indigenous folk music" before Dvorák publicized his opinions on such in the U.S. (i.e., that it was "just about finished" by September 1892 would have been prior to Dvorák's influence).26 Yet the 1891 pencil sketch at the Boston Public Library of the "Dirge," the earliest completed movement, is closer in tone, design, and harmonic treatment to MacDowell's earlier symphonic poems than it is to the rest of the later suite. Moreover, the idea of MacDowell's use of Indian source material—unlike that for the other four movements—seems tenuous at best. More than a familiarity with actual styles of North American Indian music, the three fast movements of MacDowell's suite reveal connections to nineteenth-century exotic models, especially the generic European "Indian war dances" of Félicien David, William Wallace, Bristow, and others.27

Support for the use of Indian music also came from an unlikely source, the critic Henry Krehbiel. Like Dvorák, of whom he was an ardent and eloquent supporter, Krehbiel at first gave no indication that Indian music would be appropriate to use in composition, even though an obvious place to do so would have been his 1893 review of Fletcher's Study of Omaha Indian Music. But four years later, by the time of his criticism of MacDowell's Suite, he had entered the debate on how Indian music could be adapted into a national musical style.

I have said there is one element in Indian music, of which effective use might have been made, which Professor MacDowell overlooked. This is their characteristic drumming. In much of the music of the Plains Indians and those of the Pacific Coast cross rhythms are common, generally three beats against four, but Iroquois songs are accompanied by a steady reiteration of time units, each preceded by an appoggiatura. Neither of these effects was utilized in the suite. Had they been, they might have added a National trait which would have appealed to the student of folksong, even if it would not have helped the ordinary listener to recognize the American element.

He even went to battle for MacDowell against the Boston skeptics who, in his words, contend that there can be no American music, because there are no American melodies racy [sic] of the soil. But, like Diogenes, Mr. MacDowell had walked while they have talked.

In an article on the state of Indian music research a few years later, Krehbiel again drew attention to composers who had recently made use of Indian music in their compositions.28 As late as 1902, Krehbiel still held out hope that "when the right man comes he may turn the characteristic features of Indian song to excellent account."29

One of the dissenters to whom Krehbiel referred was the Boston critic Philip Hale. In an 1896 review of MacDowell's suite, Hale praised its "rare beauty," but he could hardly contain his mirth at the preoccupation with Indian music by such notable critics as his New York colleague:

That Mr. MacDowell took some or all of his thematic material from North American Indians does not interest me in the slightest. I go to a concert to hear music, not to study or discuss folklore.

Then these "Indian tunes." Might not some returned warrior avenge himself upon the white oppressor by inventing some melody on the spur of the moment? Somehow or other, I always associate Indian tunes with Mr. Krehbiel. [This is probably because of Krehbiel's five Tribune articles on folk music that he observed at the Chicago Fair during 1893.] I see him in close confab with a plug-hatted venerable chief, as they discuss folk songs over a jug of firewater. The phonograph is close at hand. The firewater begins to work, and old Three-Tones-in-His-Voice chirps like a cricket. "Did you ever hear this, my pale-faced brother? Listen to the Scotch snap." The phonograph records the wondrous melody. Another drink, another folk song, another burst of confidence to the phonograph. Why, the little jug is an anthology!

Mr. MacDowell may take his themes where he pleases, from an intoxicated chief who weeps at the name of J. F. Cooper; from Brer Krehbiel and his fellow explorers; from a relative of George Catlin; or from the rich storehouse of Mr. de Koven. The question is, What does Mr. MacDowell do with the tunes after he takes them home?30

MacDowell himself, of course, had little to add on this point. He considered his brief orchestral fling with Indian themes an experiment, though ironically it turned out to be one of his most popular and often performed works. "Killed the Indian again at Cambridge last night," MacDowell is supposed to have jested the day after a performance.31


Nationalism and Progressive Ideology

Dvorák and MacDowell both died in the first decade of the twentieth century when cultural progressivism was at its most far-reaching in American society and when musical nationalism was on the upswing. Nationalism, of course, had long been implicit in discussions of American music, at least since the days of William Henry Fry's and George Frederick Bristow's active encouragement.32 Its practical application stems from the adoption of distinctly "American" folk music, a steadily evolving process that began in the 1890s and continued until the 1940s, when folk music came to be accepted on its own merits. The pertinent immigration issue from the 1890s until the Great War, however—"who would be included as Americans"—did not for the most part include the indigenous peoples of America. "To select Indian tunes because they are useful is one thing," wrote John Tasker Howard in 1929. "To choose them for nationalistic purposes is a different matter entirely, for they are American in the geographic sense alone."33 What else truly defined America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, one might respond to Howard, if not the fact of different groups being thrown together, in part, by geography? Political debates about American nationalism have almost always rested on this central tenet. Yet the complexity of the issues surrounding the borrowing of Indian music and links with musical nationalism during the years of America's emergence as a world power have seldom been suggested.34

One of the falsehoods about the idea of a national music for America between 1890 and the 1920s stemmed from the naive belief that a consensus on a cultural issue could be reached by so vastly diverse a nation as the United States. "American music" had otherwise existed along with all other forms of culture since the country was formed. It was largely following the Civil War, however, that the idea of a specifically national culture began to develop among the dominant economic class. In one sense, the United States had achieved a national culture by the 1890s: that of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant middle-class culture. But in the late nineteenth century that group was rapidly giving way to a growing "underclass," the immigrants who assumed a large measure of the responsibility for keeping the giant industrial machine at work. After more than 150 years with an identity as a nation of rural dwellers, the United States had within a few short decades become distinctively urbanized; the cities were home to the factories and industries that now came to symbolize the new nation. One of the leading political and social ideologies that grew out of this rapidly changing environment—the doctrine of progressivism—is important to an understanding of nationalism and Indianism in music.

The term progressive, in its least complex form, implies the recognition of a progression: from ape to human, from chisel and stone tablet to typewriter, from belief in superstition and mythology to scientific explanation, and from instinctive behavior to cultivation and refinement. The historian Richard Slotkin recently summarized the explicitly American form of this pervasive and complicated philosophy:

The basic elements of [progressivism] were developed in the newspaper polemics of the 1870s and were formulated as a systematic doctrine in the frontier histories and political speeches of Theodore Roosevelt (and other political Progressives) between 1883 and 1893. The progressives acknowledged that the decade had produced a crisis in the history of American development in the form of a political struggle between an aggressively monopolistic "big business" and an increasingly radical and potentially violent labor movement. But they also believed that the conflict could be resolved by identifying and following a clear and continuous line which ran through American history: the steady transformation of small individual concerns into large economic and political institutionssmall farms into industrial farms, shops into factories and factories into corporate complexes, colonies into provinces, provinces into confederacies, confederacies into nation, republic into empire.35

With this powerful ideological force dominating nearly every facet of American life from about 1890 to 1920, it seems unlikely that any one ethnic culture—musical or otherwise—would have proved sufficient to define the United States during its political and cultural ascendancy to empire.

The economic, social, political, and cultural map for these thirty years was defined, or, to put it more accurately, postulated, from two somewhat different viewpoints, although both were grounded in the same progressive ideology. The closing of America's western frontier signaled the end of an era. The energy and labor which united America in the fight for the frontier would now have to be focused on other "frontiers," one of which was building the United States into a leading world power.36 The first of the two dominant viewpoints was expressed by Roosevelt himself in his The Winning of the West (14 vols., 1885-94). For Roosevelt, the closing of the frontier signified the loss of "those elements in national life that made Americans virile and vigorous, stimulated their taste and aptitude for competition, and gave them a strong and unifying sense of racial solidarity." In other words, "American character" defined itself not merely in terms of victory over adversity, but victory at the expense of the Indian.

As Slotkin points out, Roosevelt's hunting tales and historical accounts "use the history of the West to illustrate first the succession of savages by civilized races and then the succession of different classes or subdivisions of the White or Anglo-Saxon race that represent progressively higher stages of development" and lead to a heroic, elite class. According to Roosevelt, the test of true "virility" is willingness to engage in "righteous wars," the archetype of which is the Indian war or "savage war." The problem for a post-frontier America was, again in Slotkin's words, "how to preserve and develop those leadership virtues that were fostered by hunting and Indian-fighting in a world without wilderness or savages."37

The other persuasive form that the new national ideology took was outlined by the historian Frederick Jackson Turner in a speech first delivered at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 (and soon thereafter published).38 Turner rejected Roosevelt's implicit racism and supported the "moral and political idealism" of America's non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants. Turner saw that the frontier, as an area of free land beyond the line of settlement, had helped determine the national character and national ideals. Now, however, Turner argued, there was no more open land, and the frontier had vanished. With its passing went the forces that gave vitality to Western democracy. In the absence of these, America would need to find itself not in Rooseveltan ideals of character building through hunting and warfare, but in those of the spirit, specifically in institutions of public and higher education. These would preserve and foster the growth of democratic ideology.

Turner's "Frontier Thesis" proved highly influential in early twentieth-century historiography and in much liberal critique of big-business conservatism and corporate progressivism. On the other hand, Roosevelt's ideology, according to Slotkin, became imbedded in new twentieth-century American "mythologies" of violence and hunter-mentality. In both expressions, however, the mythic space of the "Frontier" (or "the West"), began to outweigh its importance as a real place and became known, "and completely identified with, the fictions created about it."39 Popular literature and dime novels, to cite prevalent examples, depicted heroic tales of the rugged West. For urban readers, such tales offered an escape from the growing reality of urban congestion and discontent with industrialization. National expression in America took its cues (in addition to European philosophies) from a set of dichotomies that crystalized around Roosevelt's and Turner's nationalist ideologies: "science" vs. "superstition," "progress" vs. "economic stagnation," "civilization" vs. "wilderness," "virility" vs. "sentimentality," "industrial" vs. "agrarian," and "imperialist" vs. "provincial."

In this light, we can now determine how a second generation of self-consciously American composers who followed in Dvorák's and MacDowell's footsteps—and preceded those of Aaron Copland and Roy Harris—responded to the progressive hold on the American imagination, and why Indian music seemed intrinsically a part of it. Most composers that used Indian music in the early twentieth century, beginning particularly with the New England-based Arthur Farwell, exhibited views that were far more nuanced, often tending toward a broad cultural pluralism. Farwell tended to deflect the issue from the somewhat mechanistic process of adopting a regional folk music (such as Appalachian or Zuñi) to establish national character. Like his East European contemporaries Bartók and Janácek, he was more interested in what spiritual content—or, to put it more plainly, the expressive and associative implications—the stylistic features in question convey to a listener.40 Farwell fostered the growth of a specific type of genre, the "Indian character piece." These musical portraits relied upon a nationalist/exoticist dialectic to evoke a far-off world rich with symbolic significance, not, as traditional definitions of national styles would have it, a familiar one close to home.41 The descending pentatonic melodies, irregular metric phrasing, distinctly vocal embellishments, and rhythmic vigor of the Indian source material, however, might have been mistaken for similar features in other American folk music. As proof of the unfamiliar and exotic source, Farwell felt it necessary to give lectures on the legends behind his Indian-influenced compositions.


Farwell's Influence

With a minimum of professional training and undaunted by the opposition of a handful of the most imposing American music critics of the time (including, as we have seen, Philip Hale), Arthur Farwell almost single-handedly encouraged the adoption of Indian music and culture into the Western musical aesthetic. Inspired by his studies in Germany, Farwell returned to America in 1899 full of hopes for a future distinctive American music that would draw its inspiration not only from uniquely American experience but from American myth and legendary lore, wherever they might be found. Accidentally, a bookseller at Bartlett's Cornhill Book Shop in Boston presented him with a copy of Fletcher's Indian Story and Song. Fletcher's descriptive "legends" brought back vivid memories of Farwell's boyhood in Minnesota, such as experiences with Indian guides on early hunting expeditions with his father, "the Sioux in strange sun dances," and "the impressive speeches of the old priests."42 Paintings of the West by Arthur B. Davies later rekindled the interest in Indians, producing an effect upon Farwell "akin to much of Wagner's music."43 "To this day," Farwell later wrote (1909), "I never see an Indian . . . without a tingling thrill coursing up my spine, such as I experience from the climaxes of certain music."44 About 1900, Farwell developed his belief in Indian lore as one of the key mythoi that he had previously been seeking. At first glance, he had found the music in Fletcher's work "unimportant." But as he divested them of Fillmore's harmonies and sang them as actual songs, the melodies began to take on new meaning, each "a distinct and concentrated musical idea, some extremely vivid in their expressiveness."45

In a tremendous burst of youthful idealistic zeal, he established his own publishing firm—the Wa-Wan Press—in 1901. Although the title of the serial came from the Omaha pipe-smoking ceremony, quality and broad appeal of the music were Farwell's overriding concerns, not music based on any particular ethnic group.46 Farwell's stated objective was to make available serious compositions by American composers. In order to find out who American composers were, he traveled westward across the country, stopping in nearly every major city along the way. He financed four such trips between 1903 and 1906 through a popular lecture-recital series on music and myth of the American Indians and their relevance to American music (with varying titles from program to program).47

Between 1903 and 1907, Farwell developed strong ties to the American Southwest—largely through his close friendship with the archaeologist-historian Charles F. Lummis—and he later lived in Southern California between 1918 and 1927. Perhaps because of its relative accessibility in the American Southwest, Indian music served as an important initial focus of Farwell's attention regarding the folk ethos in music. His passionate fervor for the high ethical goals of American music and its ultimate democratic goals reflect an unwavering idealism.

The Indian music is now promising to be one of the most important factors [in American music]. This is due to its intrinsic force and beauty, and to the intimacy of the Indian's relation to the history of all parts of these states, as well as to the powerful and suggestive mythology supporting it. In the still largely unrevealed subjective life of the Indian the ethnologist has found another world, rich in poetry, mystery, elemental philosophy, mythic lore, close to our own, yet generally unperceived by us in its true fullness and significance. Science has discovered this world: but the opportunity—the privilege—the need—of its ideal representation in terms comprehensible to all, falls to art. And since the Indian has entrusted so large a share of his own expression of his life and thought to music, the unearthing of this music and bringing it into the open of our musical life is one of the greatest and most obvious musical tasks before America at the present moment.48

Later, Farwell repeatedly stressed that his musical interests had been and continued to be broadly American, that the exclusive use of Indian music had never been his goal, and that his promotion of Indian music had been largely a means to an end. At the time, however, Farwell's stated belief in the richness of Indian culture and the necessity of American response to it represented a kind of declaration of purpose; indeed, he had already formulated a set of rules to accompany it—"Articles of Faith"—by which he expected to establish guidelines for the use of Indian music for others to follow. In order "to clear up a little the ground on which workers in this field must stand," he attempted with these articles to answer point by point some of the most often asked questions about Indian music.49

Farwell's articles appeared in the Wa-Wan Press in 1903 and reached large numbers of readers, both in America and abroad.50 These nine statements (Table 1) touch on, elaborate, and sometimes offer resistance to various of the musical Indianisms we have already encountered.


Table 1
Arthur Farwell, "Articles of Faith"
Wa-Wan Press, 1903

1. In so far as Indian music and Indian thought is exotic, just so far is it perishable in the atmosphere of modern art and thought.

2. In so far as it is germane and vital to modern art and thought, just so far must it be permanently absorbed into our art and life.

3. Ultimate American composition will not be consciously and artificially based on Indian music.

4. Nevertheless, Indian music remains a great source of inspiration and a significant point of departure for the American composer who understands it in connection with its underlying wealth of mythical lore. For it springs from, and interprets in new colors, the "great mystery," the eternal miracle of natural and human phenomena, to which refreshing source American life is leading us back from the artificialities and technicalities which have latterly beset European culture.

5. It is entirely possible, in fact necessary, that ultimate American composition can (but by no means must) be achieved without the knowledge of Indian music.

6. Ultimate American composition can be approached in a certain degree through the knowledge of Indian music, just as a traveler can help himself to reach the top of a mountain by means of a staff.

7. Indian music may serve merely as a study of characteristic motives and rhythms, or as actual thematic material, as the case may be. The greater the composer, the greater the use he will make of it upon occasion, and the greater will be his power to depart from it.

8. Henceforth there will be two distinct channels of development for music suggested by Indian life. The first will employ actual Indian themes; the second will not, but will derive its creative impulse from the inexhaustible world of Indian mythos, to which we are now gaining access. (Mythos—the quintessence of the poetic life and expression of all primitive races!)

9. The world of Indian life concerns us because the truth and splendors of Indian mythology, philosophy, and psychology are among the eternal verities and beauties, and the golden opportunity to revivify art at these springs is now. (It is a significant fact that no one who has caught a glimpse of these inside worlds of Indian life has ever again asked the question, "What have we to do with the Indians?")


Farwell includes two explicit disclaimers (nos. 3 and 5) concerning the much-discussed use of Indian music toward nationalist ends ("ultimate American composition"): if an "American" music does arise, he asserts, it will not necessarily be from the conscious use of Indian music. Farwell's remaining arguments can be distilled into three central issues: a) music written merely with respect to the most "exotic" features of Indian life will ultimately not last (1); b) Indian music offers the modern composer a source of originality in composition—new motives and rhythms—some of which may be not only of historical or archaeological interest, but may actually be synchronous with modern creative energy (2, 7); and c), Farwell's most pervasive theme: Indian song may itself serve as a means for reaching higher goals and aspirations in music, a spiritual rootedness against which contemporary European art works seemed to be merely intellectual abstractions (4, 6, 8, 9).

From issues b and c, which deal with artistic concepts more allied with those of the twentieth century, two critical motivating factors emerge: 1) the apparent historical or, as he puts it, "archaeological" attraction to Indian music which, to some, seemed as timely as any other folk art rooted in ancient wisdom and 2) the tendency to find in Indian music an echo of "the eternal miracle of natural and human phenomena" as well as a "source of spiritual rootedness" which, by implication, was lacking not only in European-inherited art but also in contemporary American society. Farwell's ideas for music also resonated deeply in other arts. His philosophy found an echo in Mary Austin who believed that the secret to vital American poetry lay in the rhythm of Native American poetry. Austin had sought artistic renewal in the American desert in 1905. She later addressed the "new rhythmic modes" through which the "young genius of America" sought expression: "I know of no better way of establishing a sense of values in this dimension than to describe the way in which they came to me through my study of the rhythmic modes of the aboriginal American."51 For Farwell and other musicians, then, once the melodic and rhythmic features of Indian music would be heard in the context of American folksong—alongside those of Creole and Cajun, or Negro spirituals—these interesting and distinctly non-European musical nuggets could be gathered and applied to contemporary music, thereby contributing a sense of mythic import and spiritual depth.


Indian Music and the American West

During the twentieth century's first decades, we can chart an extraordinary attraction specifically to Indian music and a special desire to fuse a poetic interpretation of nature with the mythology and temperament of America's indigenous peoples. In the poetic American consciousness, the two were eternal and inseparable. Even the French-born Edgard Varèse in the 1920s set out in search of this experience. After spending two summers in the deserts of New Mexico, however, he wrote that he wouldn't dream of touching the "magnificent music" of the Navajos, Apaches, and others that he had heard there.52

During the 1910s and 20s, it became increasingly obvious to composers as well as novelists, poets, and painters, that the natural inspirational beauties of the West could not in spirit be separated from the Indian legends that surrounded them.53 It seemed as if Indian music was about to become one of the newer frontiers in music: a rich, newly realized sound-world of raw power and unfiltered experience.54 In 1915, Natalie Curtis recounted the experience of sitting in a concert hall listening to a rehearsal of Ferruccio Busoni's Indian Fantasy for piano and orchestra under Leopold Stokowski with the composer as soloist. Curtis, a one-time pupil of Busoni's in Berlin, had supplied him on his request with "a few Indian melodies." Now, as she sat with Percy Grainger and Mrs. Busoni in the Academy in Philadelphia,

the walls melted away, and I was in the West, filled again with that awing sense of vastness, of solitude, of immensity. The boundless horizon, the endless stretch of plains and deserts, the might of the Mississippi, the towering grandeur of the Rocky Mountains—all this, the spirit of the real America (a spirit of primeval, latent power) Busoni had felt while traveling across the continent, and now had tried to reproduce.

Like others of her generation, Curtis saw the Indians as reflective of America's past. In the final section of Busoni's Fantasy, as a drum tattoo begins from afar, Curtis read this "vivid picture of Indian life":

We see a host appearing over the hillcrest [sic], singing as they come; they pass before us, and at the end they vanish again into the distance, mysterious, causing us to ponder on the early dawn of human life on the American Continent, and on the passing of the primitive Red Man. This almost abrupt and phantom-like ending leaves one still lost in the mood created by the music.55

Like other followers of the progressive movement, Natalie Curtis displayed a high degree of social consciousness in her work and career. (For example, she was involved in, and composed music for, the pageant movement that influenced civic life during the 1900s and 1910s.56) Like many progressives, Curtis must have been aware of the populist spirit rising to take action against Social Darwinism in the educated and moneyed classes.57 Social conscience was reflected in the desire to find common ground if not unity between many of the potentially destructive opposing forces of progressivism (led principally by the cultured class) and populism (led principally by the underclass).

Consequently, we can see Natalie Curtis's response to Busoni's Indian Fantasy in the light of the progressive/populist discourse. As a folklorist and musicologist, Curtis worked methodically to record the songs and customs that had been related to her by her Native American informants.58 As had Fletcher and Fillmore before her, she also turned to a scion of Western culture (and one who must have seemed to her near the top of the cultural evolutionary scale—an established White European male composer) in the hopes that he would validate Indian music (a culture of the "lower classes") by incorporating it into his own world view. "Those of us who have the future of the Red Man at heart," she wrote, "rejoice in Busoni's composition for still other reasons. We know that such an art-work by so great a man will help to make the Indian better recognized and will emphasize the value of his contribution to our national life: we welcome the Indian Fantasy, therefore, for the sake of Indian humanity."59

Other composers were motivated by the discourse boiling over in the political sphere. Like socially conscious artists and authors working during this time, some composers turned to Turner's "realm of the spirit" and "domain of ideals" as well as to the life and culture of the "lower classes," the losers in the Social Darwinian debate: Indians, Negroes, Asians, Latins, Jews, Southern Italians—in short, all "races" that had not attained progressivism's "elite class." Farwell, Charles Wakefield Cadman, Carl Busch, Thurlow Lieurance, Mary Carr Moore, and Frederick Shepherd Converse displayed a social consciousness resembling that of such contemporary writers as Hamlin Garland, Stephen Crane, Jack London, and Frank Norris. Garland's 1902 novel The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop, for example, deals with the abuse of the American Indian by self-serving cattlemen. The opera Narcissa by Mary Carr Moore, produced in San Francisco in 1911, is based on a true incident involving a nineteenth-century White missionary couple in the Northwest who were murdered by Indians as reprisal for an Indian massacre by White settlers to the south. Perhaps by expressing in emotional terms the White-Indian conflict and critiquing the underlying tragedies implicit in the "frontier," Moore hoped to voice the need for both races to recognize their common humanity, strivings, and suffering. Moore pointedly subtitled the opera, "The Cost of the Empire."60

Narcissa was to some extent a critique of prevailing policies (and also of human nature). A strong argument for the absorption of Indian music into modern American culture could be found first in Farwell's music and in his stated philosophy and subsequently in the musical compositions of Cadman, Griffes, Liza Lehmann, Converse (and later, in others such as Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco), lesser-knowns such as Miller and Homer Grunn, and even by less skillful but highly active regional composers such as William Frederick Hanson of Utah.61 These composers sought to portray the life, culture, and religion of Native Americans (even if stylized) and were motivated in part to counter the dangerous social effects of prevailing anti-Indian policies. Their approach suggests that they were at bottom not Social Darwinists like many political progressives, but rather more enlightened social realists in their view that folk culture could be idealized and absorbed into the national culture.62

Curtis, Farwell, Cadman, and others who spoke on behalf of Indian culture, like their socially conscious author-counterparts, met with mixed response, even ridicule. Although Theodore Roosevelt as president occasionally endorsed such works on or about the Native American, his statements made it clear that the Indians were the primary representatives of the anti-progressive principle in his vision of the West.63 He was merciless in his ridicule of the "foolish sentimentalists" who sought to protect and preserve the culture of the reservation Indians.64

Whatever the motivations that drew composers to Native American music, the opponents of such procedures continued to voice their objectives throughout the 1910s and 20s.65 In one sense, critics of nationalism were—in time—vindicated. Despite continued appearances of Indian-based works in published music, concert programs, and other venues (including opera), using melodies of Indian song to create larger pieces of music could never compare with Rimsky-Korsakov's use of Russian melodies or Vaughan Williams's use of English folk song. Critics for the most part continued to note that, unlike Russian and English folk music for those cultures, Indian music was not part of the cultural heritage of most Americans.66 (Such objections echoed the fact that before Indians were granted voting rights in 1924, they were not considered "Americans" at all.) It also seemed unlikely that any tradition could evolve from music that, out of context, had little more than vague associative power for composer or audience. The folklore and culture of the "vanishing" American Indian could only find its place in "American" music in one of two ways: when composers succeeded in distilling and shaping it into idiomatic (if stereotypical) musical topoi—as Farwell, Loomis, and others did in their character pieces, Cadman and Thurlow Lieurance did in their songs, and Herbert and Cadman in their operas—or when the folklore and culture of the "Vanishing American" became a part of the folklore of the American West.

Like Dvorák and Krehbiel who engaged in the nationalist debate in the 1890s, Farwell and others in the early decades of the twentieth century turned to Indian music for various reasons. Not only was it one among many American sources for musical composition, but it also served as a way to raise public consciousness about the American Indians and their culture. Farwell, who would have been a prime candidate for induction into Roosevelt's category of "foolish sentimentalists," found in the philosophies and religion of America's indigenous peoples a time-weathered spiritual alternative to the seeming impoverishment of Social Darwinism masquerading as Christianity. Embracing Native American culture and absorbing it into one's own vernacular offered a most telling form of criticism of the depersonalization inherent in contemporary American economic policies of aggrandizement and self-importance. It also offered a hitherto unexpected source of spiritual enrichment to those who would let down cultural barriers of racism and who would reorient themselves to a connection between religion, spirituality, and art.

1For a discussion of the Indian parlor song, see Jon W. Finson, "The Romantic Savage: American Indians in the Parlor," in The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). On depictions of a particular type of "Indian war dance," see Michael V. Pisani, "'I'm an Indian Too': Creating Indian Identities in Western Music," in Jonathan Bellman, ed. The Exotic in Western Music (Boston: Northeastern University Press, forthcoming).

2Quote from Brian W. Dippie, The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and United States Indian Policy (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1982), 216.

3Journal of American Folklore 1, no. 1 (April-June 1888): 5. The three other categories of "fast-vanishing" folklore were: relics of old English (ballads, superstitions, etc.), Southern Black, and French Canadian and Mexican. (The latter two combined in one group.)

4See also Skilton's "Realism in Indian Music" in Studies in Musical Education, History, and Aesthetics (Papers and Proceedings of the Music Teachers' National Association), thirteenth series, 40 (1919): 112-13. For a discussion of the term "idealized" as used in musical settings see Charles Wakefield Cadman, "The Idealization of Indian Music," Musical Quarterly 1 (1915): 387-96.

5Oscar Sonneck, "A Survey of Music in America" (1913). Included in Suum cuique: Essays in Music (New York: G. Schirmer, 1916; repr. Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1969), 142.

6Gilbert Chase, America's Music, 1st ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1955), 400-401.

7Ibid., 401.

8A. Irving Hallowell, "The Impact of the American Indian on American Culture," American Anthropologist (1957); repr. in Folklore in Action: Essays for Discussion in Honor of MacEdward Leach, ed. Horace P. Beck, Bibliographical and Special Series, vol. 14 (Philadelphia: Publications of the American Folklore Society, 1962), 126.

9The illogicality of referring to Indian culture as "non-Western" must simply be left unresolved here.

10 Hallowell, "Impact of the American Indian," 127.

11This article may not be in fact by Dvorák but by Henry Krehbiel. See John C. Tibbetts ed., Dvorák in America: 1892-1895 (Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1993), 16.

12"Dvorák on His New Work," New York Herald (15 December 1893). By "native melodies," Dvorák uses the term as his contemporaries seem to have used it, to refer inclusively to all culture native to America, not in the restrictive sense of Native Americans that this word has today.

13Irwin Spector, "Dvorák's American Period," Illinois Quarterly 33, no. 3 (Feb. 1971): 8, and John C. Tibbetts, "Dvorák's Spillville Summer," in Dvorák in America, 90-91. See John Clapham, "Dvorák and the American Indian," Musical Times 107 (1966): 865; repr. in Dvorák in America, 117. In his memoirs, Dvorák's son recalled that his father persuaded Big Moon and some others "to perform some Indian dances and songs for us. The program was very nice," Otakar recalls, "and people came to see the Indians perform." After the performance, Dvorák received three photos from the Indians; he kept the photos in his studio until his death. Otakar Dvorák, Antonín Dvorák, My Father, trans. Miroslav Nmec, ed. Paul J. Polansky (Spillville, Iowa: Czeck Historical Research Center, 1993), 23.

14The theme is probably that noted down at Spillville by his friend Josef Jan Kovarik. See John Clapham, "Dvorák and the American Indian," in Dvorák in America, 119.

15Unpublished letter from John Comfort Fillmore to Dvorák (11 August 1893) indicating that he and Fletcher had sent the composer a copy. Cited in John Clapham, "Dvorák and the American Indian." Musical Times 107, no. 1484 (October 1966): 863-67 (repr. in Tibbetts, Dvorák in America, 113-22). Dvorák in the article cited earlier referred to Fillmore only as "a friend": "[I] carefully studied a certain number of Indian melodies which a friend gave me, and became thoroughly imbued with their characteristicswith their spirit, in fact." "Dvorák on His New Work," New York Herald (15 December 1893), repr. in Tibbetts, 363. Clapham believed that the anonymously cited friend was Krehbiel. This confusion may have come about because Dvorák himself later admitted the influence of said friend's Indian themes on his "New World" symphony, even though he had completed the full score on 24 May 1893, three months before the Fletcher/Fillmore contact. Claphamwho spent a great deal of time and ink trying to trace the actual content and source of Native American influence on Dvorák's workswas inclined to believe that the transcriptions of three Iroquois songs in Krehbiel's hand (and found among Dvorák's papers) were the songs to which Dvorák referred. However, Clapham probably knew little of the history behind Fletcher's contact with American composers and her plan for a national school. Dvorák would have had no reason not to identify Krehbiel by name. An editor's comment in a newspaper interview that Dvorák had "made a serious study of the national music of this continent as exemplified in the native melodies of the negro and Indian races" ("Dr. Dvorák's Great Symphony," New York Herald, 15 December 1893) has been understood to mean that Dvorák himself undertook the study. Now that we have access to Fillmore's letter and know that he received a copy of the Fletcher/Fillmore collection, we can suspect that Dvorák's "serious study" consisted of working with their book (and perhaps a few other published sources), not doing original field work.

16"A Dvorák American Chronology," in Tibbetts ed., Dvorák in America, 16-17.

17Jeannette Thurber, "Dvorák as I Knew Him," The Etude (November 1919): 683-94; repr. in Tibbetts, 382.

18Speech given at the Music Hall on 12 May 1893 and printed the following day in the Chicago Tribune as "For National Music" (13 August 1893).

19Letter of Dvorák to Mr. and Mrs. Hlavka in Prague, 27 December 1892. Repr. in Tibbetts, 389-91. Bret Harte was known in the 1860s for his short stories dealing with the years of the gold rush. After his American career flagged in the late 1870s, he became consul in Germany and Scotland, and was a favorite in European literary circles.

20Following the lead of Dvorák scholars such as Sourek, Sychra, and Clapham, Michael Beckerman has written extensively about the connections between the symphony and Longfellow's poem. See his "Dvorák's 'New World' Largo and The Song of Hiawatha," Nineteenth-Century Music 16 (Summer 1992): 35-48, "Henry Krehbiel, Antonín Dvorák, and the Symphony 'From the New World,'" Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 29 (1992): 447-73, and "The Dance of Pau-Puk-Keewis, the Song of Chibiabos, and the Story of Iagoo: Reflections on Dvorák's 'New World' Scherzo," in Tibbetts, 210-27. James Hepokoski suggests a somewhat different program in "Culture Clash," The Musical Times (December 1991): 686-88.

21Dvorák, "Music in America," Harper's New Monthly Magazine (February 1895); repr. complete only in Tibbetts, 370-80, and in Robert Winter's interactive CD-Rom package Antonín Dvorák Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (Irvington, New York: Voyager, 1994).

22Joan Mark, A Stranger in Her Native Land: Alice Fletcher and the American Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 16-17. (Citations are from Sidney Lanier, Letters, 1869-1873, vol. 8, ed. Charles R. Anderson and Aubrey H. Starke [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1945], 417-18, and Fletcher to Sidney Lanier, Nov. 14, 1873. Fletcher Papers; also printed in Letters of Sidney Lanier: Selections from His Correspondence, 1866-1881 [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899], 79-80.)

23The precedents for Fletcher's collection of folk music and approaching composers to validate the songs goes back at least to the folk song collecting of the Scotsman George Thomson (1757-1839), who commissioned well-known composers (Haydn, Kozeluch, Pleyel, and Beethoven) to make arrangements of them.

24Frederick R. Burton, best known for his studies among the Ojibwa of Ontario on Lake Huron around 1900, was similarly convinced that he had found a source of national character in Indian music. He believed that American composers only need appropriate Indian music in order to arrive at a uniform shared style. See his American Primitive Music, with Especial Attention to the Songs of the Ojibways (New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1909), 193. See also "Nationalism in Music" in the same work, 180-87.

25The most recent study of MacDowell's suite is by Richard Crawford in "Edward MacDowell: Musical Nationalism and An American Tone Poet," Journal of the American Musicological Society 49 (Fall 1996): 551-60. Crawford synthesizes many of the writings concerning MacDowell's use of Indian themes.

26T. P. Currier, "Edward MacDowell as I Knew Him," Musical Quarterly 1 (Jan 1915): 17-51. Henry Krehbiel recalled in 1897 that the suite was the result of a conversation in Boston "four or five years ago" ("Music at Worcester," New York Daily Tribune, 23 Sept. 1897). MacDowell himself referred in journal articles and other writings of 1894 and 1895 simply to his "suite" and it's clear from the musical details that he means the first and not the "Indian" suite. Moreover, the conclusion of MacDowell's last movement resembles the ending of Dvorák's symphony. It is unlikely that the modeling would have occurred in the other direction. See my essay, "Issues of Chronology Surrounding the Composition of MacDowell's 'Indian Suite' (1891-1896)," appendix D in Exotic Sounds in the Native Land: Portrayals of North American Indians in Western Music (Ph.D. diss., Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, 1996), 573-75.

27See fn 1.

28Henry Krehbiel, "Music of the Omahas," New York Tribune (Sunday, 10 Sept. 1893): II: 14; "Music at Worcester" (see fn. above); and "Folk-Music Studies: Songs of the American Indians," New York Tribune (Illustrated Supplement, 8 Oct. 1899): 15. For a summary of the nationalist views of the "wise men of Boston" (which included one woman), see Adrienne Fried Block, "Boston Talks Back to Dvorák," I.S.A.M. Newsletter 18, no. 2 (May 1989): 10, 11, 15. Given Krehbiel's interest in the Indian element of MacDowell's suite, it is surprising that in October of 1896almost a year before the Worcester review but eight months after the suite's premiereKrehbiel did not seem to be aware of the Indian connection, or if he was, he never mentioned it in his discussion of the work for a three-column article on MacDowell. See New York Daily Tribune (Sunday, 11 Oct. 1896): Part 2, p. 3.

29Henry Krehbiel, "Indian Melodies," New York Daily Tribune (1902), found without exact date in Krehbiel's Scrapbook, New York Public Library, Lincoln Center.

30Philip Hale on "MacDowell's Suite and 'Indian Tunes,'" Musical Courier 32, no. 6 (5 Feb. 1896): 23. Revised and adapted from an earlier review "Symphony Concert: MacDowell's Indian Suite," Boston Journal 2 (Feb. 1896). I have been trying to locate Reginald de Koven's "rich storehouse" of themes of which Hale speaks but have had no luck. His "Indian Love Song" (Schirmer, 1891) is based on a Hindu poem. De Koven scholar Orly Krasner noted that criticism was often leveled at de Koven for borrowing folk tunes from other cultures but she was unaware that he himself had ever collected Indian melodies. (Information based on a conversation with the author.) Based on views expressed in an 1895 article entitled "Nationality in Music and the American Composer," it is doubtful whether de Koven would have been sympathetic to MacDowell's (or anybody else's) use of "Indian music." Here he wrote: "The Indian melodies represent a dying race, whose influence upon or even connection with this country as a nation has long since passed away." Music in the Modern World, ed. Anton Seidl, vol. 1 (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1895), 192.

31Recalled by T. P. Currier, "Edward MacDowell As I Knew Him," 37.

32Barbara A. Zuck has shown how the desire for "an American School of Composition" grew in the 1870s and 80s in the early days of the Music Teacher's National Association, in Frank Van der Stucken's "Novelty Concerts" at Steinway Hall, and in the formation of the Manuscript Societies. See A History of Musical Americanism, 41-53. The forms that musical nationalism later took after Dvorák's American residence have been simplified and neatly chronologized by Adrienne Fried Block. Expanding upon Hugo Leichtentritt's concept of a "first wave of Americanism," Block noted that

three overlapping waves of consciously nationalist art music arose in America. Each was dependent on the availability in print, in performance, and on recordings of a specific folk or traditional repertory. The first wave of art music was based on Native American music, the second on traditional Black music, and the thirdone that Dvorák did not foresee but that nevertheless was inspired through his studentson Anglo-American music.

("Dvorák's Long American Reach," in Tibbetts, 160-61. Cf. Hugo Leichtentritt, Serge Koussevitzky, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the New American Music [Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1946], 53.)

33Our American Music, revised edition (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1939), 415.

34Some of the recent scholars to have dealt with Indianism and nationalism are: Nicholas Tawa, "The Pursuit of National Music," chapter 5 of Mainstream Music of Early Twentieth-Century America (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992), 103-40; Adrienne Fried Block, "Amy Beach's Music on Native American Themes," American Music 8, no. 2 (Summer 1990): 141-66; James C. McNutt, "John Comfort Fillmore: A Student of Indian Music Reconsidered," American Music 2 (Spring 1984): 61-70; Deborah Margaret Osman, The American "Indianist" Composers: A Critical Review of Their Sources, Their Aims, and Their Compositional Procedures (D.M.A thesis, University of South Carolina, 1992); Barbara A. Zuck, "The Impact of European Nationalism: Dvorák, MacDowell, Farwell, Cadman, and the Issue of 'American' Music," in A History of Musical Americanism (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1980), 56-73; James A. Smith, "American Indian Music and Its Use by American Composers" in Charles Sanford Skilton (1868-1941): Kansas Composer (M.A. thesis, University of Kansas, 1979), 49-67; and Gilbert Chase, "The 'Indianist' Movement in American Music" (liner notes for New World Records no. 213, 1977). The only extended study of musical Indianism besides Osman is Harold Briggs, The North American Indian as Depicted in Musical Compositions, Culminating with American "Indianist" Operas of the Early Twentieth Century: 1900-1930 (Masters Thesis, Indiana University, 1977).

35Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Atheneum, 1992), 22.

36America would continue to explore other real and imaginary "frontiers," Slotkin argues, throughout the twentieth century.

37Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation, 56.

38"The Significance of the Frontier in American History," Annual Report of the American History Association, 1893 (Washington, 1894); repr. in Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education 5 (Chicago, 1899).

39Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation, 61.

40Relevant to the expressive content of national or exotic styles is the concept of musical "intonation" as discussed by the Russian musicologist Boris Asafiev (Musical Form as a Process [two parts: Moscow, 1930 and 1947]). In a more recent study, the musical semioticist Raymond Monelle has applied Asafiev's ideas to types of music based on popular and folk styles, particularly in the twentieth century. See "The Theory of Intonation," chapter 9 in Monelle's Linguistics and Semiotics in Music (Harwood Academic Publishers, 1992).

41The most complete study of exoticism as a dialectical form of musical expression can be found in Jonathan Bellman, ed. The Exotic in Western Music, see fn 1.

42Arthur Farwell, "Discovery of Indian Music," Musical America 9 (20 March 1909): 26; repr. in "Wanderjahre of a Revolutionist" and Other Essays on American Music, ed. Thomas Stoner (Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press, 1995), 77-78.



45Ibid., 79.

46See Edward N. Waters's critical discussion "The Wa-Wan Press: An Adventure in Musical Idealism," in Gustave Reese ed., A Birthday Offering to Carl Engel (New York: Schirmer, 1943), 214-33, esp. 220-24. Many of the musical publications in the Wa-Wan Press series were prefaced by extended editorial essays. In 1907, Farwell assisted in the founding of the Wa-Wan Society of America and in that year he began to issue a newsletter, The Wa-Wan Press Monthly. The entire series of Wa-Wan publications was reprinted in 1970 in five volumes and edited by Vera Brodsky Lawrence (New York: Arno Press).

47Farwell completed a number of his earliest Indian settings during his days as a teacher. "I therefore introduced two into one of my morning lectures at Cornell, as a result of which I was asked to play them the same afternoon at the house of one of the professors, for [actress] Mme. Modjeska, who was playing in Ithaca." See Arthur Farwell, "A Publishing Project in New York," Musical America 9 (27 March 1909): 19; repr. in Wanderjahre, 81-82 and programs in the Farwell Collection, Sibley Music Library, Eastman School of Music.

48Arthur Farwell, "Toward American Music," Out West 20 (May 1904): 454-458; repr. in Wanderjahre, 188-89.

49Arthur Farwell, Wa-Wan Press 2, no. 12 (1903), "Introduction."

50Many people worldwide had access to Farwell's publications. One researcher has noted that by its second year (1902), the Wa-Wan Press "had subscribers in seventeen states as well as in Russia, England, France, and Germany." See Juliet Danziger, "Altruistic Music Publishing in America," Musical Mercury 1, no. 4 (Oct/Nov 1934): 92-96.

51Mary Austin, The American Rhythm: Studies and Re-expressions of Amerindian Songs (1923; 2nd ed. privately printed, 1930; repr. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1970), 24.

52Indian mythology had been an important personal theme for Edgard Varèse since the age of 12 (c. 1897), when he composed Martin Pas, an opera based on Jules Verne's adaptation of an Indian folktale. See Olivia Mattis, "Varèse's Multimedia Conception of Déserts," Musical Quarterly 76 (1992): 574-75.

53This was already evident as early as 1898. In Henry Hadley's choral-orchestral ballade Lelewala, Hadley depicts the plummeting waters of Niagara Falls, but at the same time, the text by G.F.R. Anderson describes how "in the waters dwells a Spirit" and that the thundering sound of the falls is that of "the Spirit's roaring voice." Lelewala: A Legend of Niagara (Boston: Arthur P. Schmidt, 1898).

54After having written one successful work on Indian themes and about to embark on another, the New York composer Frederick Jacobi wrote in 1925:

Indian music is music of today. . . . It has a certain objectiveness. Not sentimental, not descriptive or anecdotal, it has clarity and strength of form. . . . Until now, [we] have not been ready for Indian music. Today we feel kinship with primitive man and respond to it for the first time.

"Modern Music in Gallup, New Mexico," Modern Music 2 (1925): 30.

55Natalie Curtis, "Busoni's Indian Fantasy," Southern Workman 44 (1915): 543. It may come as no surprise to find this sort of wording in a journal published by the Hampton Institute in Virginia, a school expressly devoted to "the development of the uncivilized races." It is not entirely inconsistent with the goal, on the one hand, of "civilizing the Injuns" while, on the other, sweetly lamenting the passing of their primitive culture.

56Among the Curtis papers at the Library of Congress is a manuscript score "Deer Dance" complete with pantomimic instructions to the American Indian Dance Pageant (1921).

57Turner and Roosevelt both essentially agreed on those progressive principals which read the history of savage warfare and westward expansion as "a Social Darwinian parable [which explained] the emergence of a new managerial ruling class and justifying its right to subordinate lesser classes to its purposes." Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation, 22. (Social Darwinism, as expressed by William Graham Sumner and others, originated in the application of biological evolution to social theory, and often led to establishing a sense of hierarchy among the races.)

58Curtis makes it clear (not least in the book's title) that the Indians themselves were the authors of The Indians' Book, 1907. "The songs and stories are theirs; the drawings and title-pages were made by them. The work of the recorder has been but the collecting, editing, and arranging of the Indians' contributions." [Indians' Book, x.]

59Natalie Curtis, "Busoni's Indian Fantasy," Southern Workman 44 (1915): 544.

60The opera with a libretto by Sarah Pratt Carr was first performed in Seattle on 22 April 1912, in 1925 in San Francisco, and again in 1945 in Los Angeles. The vocal score was also published (New York: Witmark, 1912). For a discussion of the opera, see Catherine Parsons Smith and Cynthia S. Richardson, Mary Carr Moore, American Composer (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1987), 69-83.

61Some of the later works that drew parallels between the "vanishing" world of Native Americans and the absorption of Indian elements into the idea of the West were Charles W. Cadman in "The Moon Drops Low," the last of Four American Indian Songs (1909), Liza Lehmann [British] in Prairie Pictures (North American Indian) (1911), and Charles T. Griffes in the first of Two Sketches for String Quartet Based on Indian Themes (1910). On the development of this latter work, see Donna K. Anderson, Charles T. Griffes: A Life in Music (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993), passim, as well as Anderson's The Works of Charles T. Griffes: A Descriptive Catalogue (Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1983), 379-81 and 390-400.

William Frederick Hanson (1887-1970s?) composed several "American Indian operas" (scores of which can be found at Brigham Young University). One of these, The Sun Dance (1913), was dubbed a "Religious Ceremonial," and was given at Orpheus Hall in Vernal, Utah. It was apparently "based on a Sioux Indian ceremony." Hanson, like Natalie Curtis, was principally a folklorist and musicologist. (Beth R. Webb in D. W. Krummel and others, Resources of American Music History [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981], 357.) The compositional style of The Sun Dance is relatively crude and musically unsophisticated. But while Hanson wrote for classical orchestral and vocal media, his efforts seem to have been directed toward the representation of an Indian ritual rather than a free-standing work of concert music.

62The term social realism, or socialist realism, arose in the Soviet Union as a Marxist aesthetic theory calling for the didactic use of literature, art, and music to develop social consciousness in an evolving socialist state.

63For example, Roosevelt wrote the foreword to Edward Curtis's The North American Indian (1907-1930) and a supporting letter to Natalie Curtis for her Indians' Book (1907).

64Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation, 40.

65See especially Daniel Gregory Mason, The Dilemma of American Music, and Other Essays (New York: Macmillan, 1928; repr. New York: Greenwood Press, 1969).

66One significant example may suffice. During an interview for The Etude in 1911, Gustav Mahler said: "Surely American music based upon the crude themes of the red-skinned aboriginies . . . is not any more representative of the great American people of today than are those swarthy citizens of the New World representative of all Americans." Reprinted posthumously in Musical America 20 (1911): 32.

8869 Last modified on October 18, 2018