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Music in Native American Culture

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Music in Native American Culture

Music is one of the only few aspects of life that is incorporated in almost every culture worldwide. Many cultures view music as a form of art, and use it as a way to express feelings and tell stories. Even though the different styles and variations of music can drastically differ from culture to culture, they still serve a common purpose. Common bonds of music include, texture, rhythm, pitch, and dynamics. Music was a very important aspect in Native American culture because it played a vital role in ceremonies, history, and education.

The music of the Native American culture usually consisted of strictly vocal pieces. However the use of percussion was commonly used in order to keep a steady beat for the vocalists. The types of vocalization that can be heard in Native American music include singing and chanting solo, choral, unison, responsorial and multipart. The use of harmony and polyphony was very uncommon in this type of music. Other instruments that were sometimes incorporated into musical works were various wind instruments such as the flute. Native American music usually starts off with at a slow pace and intensifies gradually. As the music begins to pick up drums and shouts are added to accent its change of pace.

The primary use of song in Native American culture is a way for the natives to communicate with the supernatural powers. Native Americans believed that music would bring them success in many different aspects of life, such as bringing rain during a drought, success in battle, or even curing the ill. Music was always incorporated in traditional ceremonies. Most of the ancient traditions were actually shaped by every aspect of the song. Whether it was the dancing or the wardrobe used, it was all influenced by music. Native Americans incorporated the use of song, in telling stories and epic legends to the younger people in their tribes.

Even though the styles of Native American music differed slightly from tribe to tribe, they still served many common purposes. Southwest America was home to two Native American cultures that were closely related in culture. These two similar tribes were the Pueblo and the Athabaskan. The Athabaskan tribe performed most of their songs in a high nasally tone, while the Pueblo tribe demonstrated a more relaxed and low range style of music. The Athabaskan songs are performed at a much higher tempo than the Pueblo and are usually less detailed. Music of the Athabaskan tribe is seen as some of the simplest Native American music to ever be composed.

Native American songs can be divided up into three basic classes. The first class of songs were the traditional songs. These works were usually more traditional and were so important because they were handed down from generation to generation. The second class of Native American music was the ceremonial and medicine songs. These songs were believed to be received in dreams and were used for many ancient traditions and to cure the ill. And the last class of music is the modern songs that were written. Modern songs in Native American culture usually were different than the other two classes of music because they were strongly influenced by the European culture.

Unlike most cultures Native American songs actually didn't have titles. They were usually identified by the type of celebration or ceremony that they were created for. The location of the ceremony also played a big part in identifying the musical work. For example, female Native Americans usually related their songs to renewal and fertility which brought about the California flower dance song. Another interesting characteristic of Native American music is that it is not actually written down. The tribe members learn to perform the different songs just by listening and improvising. Vocal patterns heard within the songs made it easier for Native Americans to learn and memorize the different pieces.

A familiar idea in the world of Native American music was the use of secret songs. These songs were usually personal pieces that belonged to the song writer and could only be performed by them unless someone else was given



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