HISTORICAL NOTES for SOLOS FOR TREBLE INSTRUMENT
ESPECIALLY SOPRANO RECORDER
COLLECTION 9: AMERICAN INDIAN MELODIES
Arranged by Clark Kimberling
Music is a very serious matter to the Indian.
A song is powerful medicine and not to be taken lightly.
Derrick Norman Lehmer
The 60 solos in Collection 9 can be accessed by clicking SOLOS 9 - but first, read this: the solos occupy 66 pages and may take a minute to download, and your computer must have Acrobat or some other PDF reader. After viewing the solos, you may wish to print them and put them in a notebook. However, before clicking SOLOS 9, you really should browse these Historical Notes. You will find many internet links to tribal websites and a wealth of in-depth information.
American Indians sang and danced for thousands of years before lasting records were made of their melodies. During the first half of the twentieth century, Frances Densmore and others recorded the singing of Indians and attempted to represent the music in traditional music notation. If the average singer today tries to sing from those notations, the result does not sound much like what Densmore recorded – on the 2,385 cylinders now in the Archive of Folk Song in the Library of Congress. On the other hand, the notations do convey a wealth of distinctive tunefulness. It is that tunefulness that has served as the main criterion for the selection of the melodies in Collection 9, and it is that tunefulness, as well highly specific cultural purposes and difficult-to-translate sung words, that connect the melodies themselves to these historical notes.
A foundation for understanding American Indian music is described in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians:
Human beings were not considered to be the active originators of music,
but rather the recipients of music imparted to the tribe by spirit beings.
Thus, in most cases, the composers of the melodies in Collection 9 are unknown. Some of the melodies were regarded as tribal property, and others, as property of individual singers to whom the melodies were received in dreams.
ALLIGATOR DANCE SONG, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore during one of her visits to the Seminole of Florida during the years 1931-1933. Panther, a Seminole singer, explained that “A long time ago all the animals talked like people. The alligators made up this dance at that time.” Densmore continues, “The Alligator Dance is the most important of these incidental dances and was given at night.” (The Densmore books, including Seminole Music, are listed in the references at the end of these notes.) Visit Seminole Tribe of Florida.
AN APPEAL TO THE BEAR, based on a song collected by Densmore, as sung by Eagle Shield, a Lakota Indian. Traditionally, the song was sung four times during a healing treatment for kidney disease. The bear is called “father” in the song, translated as follows:
Father send a voice,
father send a voice;
a hard task I am having;
father send a voice;
a hard task I am having.
BALL GAME SONG, based on a song collected among the Seminole by Frances Densmore. Visit Seminole Tribe of Florida.
BE AFRAID, INDEED!, published in Stephen Return Riggs, Tah-koo Wah-kan, or, The Gospel Among the Dakotas, Boston, 1869, reprinted by Arno Press, 1972. This melody and Scarlet Eagle appear on page 476, with translations on page 460, in an appendix entitled “Dakota Songs and Music,” authored by Alfred Longley Riggs, son of Stephen Return Riggs. Father and son were missionaries at Lac qui Parle. See Lacquiparle.
BEHOLD THE DAWN, based on a song collected among the Lakota by Frances Densmore. Visit Lakhota.com.
BLACK CROW, based on a song collected among the Papago Indians by Frances Densmore. Her study of Papago music began near Tucson, Arizona, in 1920. Visit Papago.
BLACKBIRD DANCE SONG, based on a song collected among the Seminole by Frances Densmore, whose description is quoted here: "Four or five men and women perform this dance, which is only about 2 minutes in duration. The dancers imitate the actions of blackbirds, moving their arms like wings and 'hopping up and down.' The dance has only one song, which is sung by the man with the shell rattle." Visit Seminole Tribe of Florida.
THE BUTTERFLY YOU PAINTED HAS FLOWN AWAY, based on a song composed by Philip Sanchez, and sung by him for Frances Densmore during a collecting-visit to the Acoma Pueblo Indians in 1928. Visit Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
CANOE SONG, traditional Seneca melody, published in Pete Seeger and Bob Reiser’s Carry It On! – A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1985. The song is placed in Chapter 1: Oh, Freedom, 1770-1865, and was taught by Jesse Cornplanter (1889-1957), who assisted in anthropological research for the Seneca tribe, of which he was a member. For details, visit Native American Authors Project and Seneca Nation of Indians.
CHILDREN’S LIGHTNINGBUG DANCE SONG, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore. The song is first to appear in a section on Children’s Dances in Densmore’s book, Seminole Music. She writes, “The little children are encouraged to dance in all Indian tribes. As soon as possible, they join in dances of the older people, and among the Seminole they had dances of their own. Visit Seminole Tribe of Florida.
CIRCLE DANCE SONG, based on a Maidu song collection by Frances Densmore. Visit Konkow Valley Band of Maidu.
COME HOME, BABY IS CRYING, based on a Maidu song collected by Frances Densmore, as sung by Amanda Wilson. Mrs. Wilson was possibly the only person alive who knew this song at the time Densmore interviewed her at home in Chico, in the Sacramento Valley in California, in March 1937. Mrs. Wilson (born in the 1860s, died in 1946) was a leader among her people. She was much interested in preservation, and is remembered as a master basket weaver. Some twenty-five of her baskets have survived in private collections and museums. Visit Amanda Wilson at California Basket Weavers.
CROW INDIAN, WATCH YOUR HORSES, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore, as sung by Two Shields. A translation from Lakota: "Crow Indian, you must watch your horses; a horse thief often am I." In 1945, Densmore described Two Shields in the second of two very informative paragraphs which suggest the manner in which certain American Indian music should be performed:
About thirty years ago I asked a group of Chippewa [Ojibwe] and Sioux [Dakota and Lakota] Indians what they considered the standards of good singing among Indians, and they gave prominence to something that musicians of our own race might not have mentioned. They said that a man must sing with authority. This was essential in men who used singing in the treatment of the sick, or to bring rain or give success in various undertakings. Such songs were received in dreams and supposed to be connected with the exercise of magic power. The singer might have a weak voice but he must sing in a way that would inspire confidence.
Another practical use of singing was connected with dancing and had a special technique, impossible to show in notation. Men at the drum might provide music for a hundred or more dancers and their voices must be heard a long distance. It is said that Two Shields, one of my Sioux singers, has been heard a distance of a mile. The sound of his voice was not unpleasantly loud when recording songs but he knew how to project his voice when singing on the open prairie.
Facing page 333 of Densmore’s Teton Sioux Music, you can find a magnificent portrait of Two Shields, taken by Frank Bennett Fiske in 1909. Visit Lakhota.com and Frank Bennet Fiske. For Fiske images preserved at the Library of Congress, click Images.
CYPRESS SWAMP HUNTING DANCE SONG, based on a Seminole song collected by Frances Densmore. Visit Seminole Tribe of Florida.
DANCING SONG OF THE SKUNK, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore. The song accompanied a dance in connection with a legend of a hungry coyote and skunk. The two deceived a colony of prairie dogs and then ate them all. Densmore recorded the song as sung by Scattered Corn; a translation from Mandan:
My tail rattles,
my ears rattle,
each end rattles,
my whole body rattles.
My face is striped,
my back is striped.
Visit the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation.
A DOG CHASES A RACCOON, based on a song collected in 1933 by Frances Densmore during a visit to the Choctaw living near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Visit Choctaw Vision.
DREAM OF BUFFALO, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore. Sung for Densmore by Cawunipinas, the words (translated) are spoken by Buffalo in a dream received by the earliest singer of the song: "I am the chief of all the animals that walk." Visit The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin.
DREAM SONG, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore between 1913 and 1917 near Whiterocks, Utah. She wrote that “it is not unusual for young met at the present time to ‘receive songs in dreams.’ ” This particular song, sung for Densmore by an aged man named Kanav, was said to have been dreamed by his uncle. Visit The Ute Indian Tribe.
FATHER GAVE ME A PIPE, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore near Pawnee, Oklahoma, during 1919-1920. The song belonged to a very old woman whose father had been a chief. The words translate as follows: "Father is good, He gave me a pipe, He is good." Visit Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.
FRIENDS, GO ON, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore, sung by Two Shields, whom Densmore described as a “particularly efficient singer at the drum when large gatherings are held…such ‘leading drummers’ frequently elaborate their part, especially in songs of this kind.” For more on Two Shields, see Crow Indian, Watch Your Horses. Visit Lakhota.com.
HÍGANÚYAHÍ, a Cherokee ball-playing song. Possibly the preservation of this melody depends on its inclusion in John Philip Sousa’s National, Patriotic and Typical Airs of All Lands, 1890, reprinted by Da Capo Press, New York, 1977. For a description of the game and song, including Sousa’s role and words for Híganúyahí in both Cherokee and English, visit The Cherokee Ball Play. See also Yo Wi Danuwe. Visit Cherokee and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
HINATA DANCE SONG, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore. The hinata was said to be a “mythical animal resembling a lizard or an alligator, but very large; it lived in the water...and killed people.” Visit Seminole Tribe of Florida.
HORSES I AM BRINGING, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore, sung by Two Shields. Translation from Lakota: "Older sister, come outside; horses I am bringing back." Densmore explains that “A man who captured horses usually gave some of them to the women of his family.” See Crow Indian, Watch Your Horses. Visit Lakhota.com.
I AM GOING TO MARRY ANOTHER MAN, based on a Cheyenne song collected by Frances Densmore, who explains: “A young man and a young woman had been sweethearts for a long time, but she decided to marry someone else. It became necessary to make this known to the young man. She broke the news with hesitation, but he replied that he had no feeling in the matter.” Visit the Visit Cherokee and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
I AM STANDING TILL DAYLIGHT, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore in northern Minnesota. Translation of words from the Ojibwe (Chippewa): "I who all night long am standing up until daylight." Visit Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
I HAVE CONQUERED THEM, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore in South Dakota. Translation of the words: "Well, a war party which was supposed to come now is here; I have obliterated every trace of them." Visit Lakhota.com.
KATCINA, based on a Hopi song, Malo-Katcina, published in Benjamin Ives Gilman’s Hopi Songs, Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, 1908. Gilman was Secretary of the Boston Museum from 1893 to 1925.
LA FRAMBOISE, like Lacquiparle, in the Dakota-language hymnal, Dakota Odowan. Probably composed about 1842 by Joseph Renville. The name of the tune honors Julia Ann Framboise, who taught at Lac qui parle Mission.
LACQUIPARLE, first published in 1879 with Dakota-language text written by Joseph Renville. Recent research shows that this tune was probably composed by Joseph Renville in about 1846. Renville’s father was French Canadian, his mother, a daughter of a Dakota chief. Counties in Minnesota and North Dakota are named Renville County in his honor. Renville lived near Lac qui Parle (Lake that Speaks), now in Lac qui Parle State Park, Minnesota. The name Lacquiparle was given to the tune by missionaries at Lac qui Parle. See also La Framboise; Be Afraid, Indeed!; Scalet Eagle; and Renville. Visit Joseph Renville at Wikipedia.
THE LEGEND OF COYOTE AND SUPERMAN 1-3, based on songs collected by Frances Densmore during 1922 near Somerton, Arizona. Through a series of several songs and several pages of narrative, the legend of Coyote and Superman is given by Densmore. Briefly, the godlike Superman became progressively sicker and sicker. His children prepared him for death, but “while the fire of the cremation burned brightly Coyote traveled toward the place.” (In the mythology of many tribes, the coyote symbolizes cunning and evil.) “The animals were standing in a circle around the fire and the buzzard asked them all to stand firmly and keep as close together as possible, but there was one animal that was very short. Coyote knew this and planned to break through the line at that point…Coyote planned to seize the heart of the Superman…” Having succeeded, he “traveled a long distance…ate the heart and became unconscious with a powerful spell…Immediately he died.” Visit the Cocopah Indian Tribe.
MY GRANDFATHER THE SUN, collected by Frances Densmore from the singing of Bob-tailed Wolf. A translation of this Cheyenne healing song: "I see my grandfather the Sun; He has medicine power." Visit the Visit Cherokee and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
MY MUSIC REACHES TO THE SKY, based on an Ojibwe (Chippewa) song collected by Frances Densmore. Visit Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
OPENING SONG OF FLOWER DANCE, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore during the years 1928-1940. She writes, “In February or March of each year, the Acoma hold a dance ‘as an invitation to the flowers to bloom again.’ ” Continuing, “The most prominent person in this dance is an unmarried girl…proficient in the songs and use of the drum. The dancers are 20 unmarried boys…” Visit Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
RABBIT IN THE GARDEN, based on a song collected in 1933 by Frances Densmore during a visit to the Choctaw living near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Visit Choctaw Vision.
RENVILLE, like Lacquiparle, was probably composed by Joseph Renville about 1842 and later named in his honor by the missionaries who published the Dakota-language hymnal, Dakota Odowan, 1879. See Lacquiparle and La Framboise. Much has been written about Joseph Renville, especially under the auspices of the Minnesota Historical Society. For an in-depth study leading to the conclusion that Renville probably composed three hymn tunes arranged for his collection, see the article “Three Native American Hymns,” in The Hymn (journal of The Hymn Society in America and Canada), vol. 56, No. 2, Spring 2005, pages 18-29. See also Song in Honor of Gabriel Renville.
THE ROCKS ARE MAKING A NOISE, based on a song collected among the Papago Indians by Frances Densmore. Her study of Papago music began near Tucson, Arizona, in 1920. Visit Papago.
SCARLET EAGLE, published in Stephen Return Riggs, The Gospel Among the Dakotas. See Be Afraid, Indeed!.
SITTING BULL’S MEDICINE SONG, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore, who states that the song is “said to have been used by Sitting Bull in treating the sick.” Sung for Densmore by Sitting Bull’s nephew, whose name translates as One Buffalo Bull. A translation of the text:
Wakantanka [the supreme being], to him I am related;
Wakantanka [is] good and to him I am related.
From above a tribe is my friend;
from above an elk is my friend;
from above a man is my friend.
SOCIAL DANCE SONG, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore from the singing of Amanda Wilson. Visit Konkow Valley Band of Maidu.
SONG FOR SECURING A GOOD SUPPLY OF MAPLE SYRUP, collected before 1910 by Frances Densmore from the Ojibwe (Chippewa). The words do not request anything; the song “simply asserts that the sap is flowing freely, thus presenting to the mind a vivid picture of the conditions which would produce the desired supply of maple sugar.” Visit Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
SONG FOR SUCCESS IN HUNTING, collected by Frances Densmore during one of her visits to the Seminole of Florida during the years 1931-1933. Visit Seminole Tribe of Florida.
SONG IN HONOR OF GABRIEL RENVILLE, collected by Frances Densmore from the singing of Moses Renville, son of Gabriel Renville, a Dakota chief and nephew of the renowned Joseph Renville. Visit Gabriel Renville and Sota Iya Ye Yapi (Dakota Nation).
SONG OF THE DUCK DANCE, collected by Frances Densmore from the singing of Amanda Wilson. This piece and Woman's Game Song are characterized by a short repeated figure that is kept vital by subtle changes. This technique resembles certain modern techniques of composition, and it distinguishes this Maidu style from most other American Indian music. Translation from the Maidu: "The first flowers are blooming, so we are glad." Visit Konkow Valley Band of Maidu.
SONG OF THE SAND-HILL CRANES, collected by Frances Densmore from the Maidu of northern California.
SONG OF THE STRONG HEART SOCIETY, collected by Frances Densmore from the singing of Eagle Shield, a Lakota. Many tribes had societies of various kinds, and the societies had songs. Densmore writes, “It was said that the Strong Heart society among the Teton Sioux, as it existed within the memory of the writer’s informants, was organized by Sitting Bull [and others]... It was their desire to have a body of fearless warriors to meet any emergency, and for that purpose this society was organized.” Visit Lakhota.com.
SPRING IS OPENING, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore during a visit to Pawnee, Oklahoma, 1919-1920. A translation of the words: "Spring is opening; I can smell the different perfumes of the white weeds used in the dance." Visit Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.
SUN AND MOON, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore, sung for her by Red Bird, a Lakota, who gave this account:
This is a song concerning a dream of an Intercessor. In his dream he saw the rising sun with rays streaming out of it. He made an ornament which represented this. At first he alone wore it, but afterward others wore the same ornament. It is a hoop with feathers fastened lightly to it. The hoop represents the sun, and the feathers fastened to it are feathers of the eagle, which is the bird of day, the crane, which is the bird of night, and the hawk, which is the surest bird of prey.
When sung twice the words of the song, translated, are, for the first rendition, the sun is my friend; a hoop it has made me wear – an eagle it has made me wear, and for the second, the moon is my friend; a crane it has made me wear – a hawk it has made me wear.
This song was used during The Sun Dance – “the most spectacular and important religious ceremony of the Plains Indians of 19th-century North America.” The dance involved torture and was outlawed by the U. S. Government in 1904. Densmore devotes 53 pages of Teton Sioux Music to The Sun Dance. Visit Sun Dance.
SUN DANCE SONG, sung for Frances Densmore by Yellow Horse. This Arapaho song, Densmore writes, is one of only eight among 1,343 songs from many tribes, in which the interval of an augmented second occurs, and “like other peculiar features of Indian songs, seemed to be given with special care.” See Sun and Moon.
THOSE ARE NOT MY INTEREST, based on a song collected by Frances Densmore as sung by Two Shields. This song and Crow Indian, Watch Your Horses are “wolf songs,” as the life of a warrior was supposed to be like that of the wolf. The songs were sung in gatherings prior to departure of a war party. The sense of the words of this song is that everyday customs are many and are not of interest to the singer.
TUKUMINGUAK’S SONG, based on a song recorded from the singing of Tukuminguak in 1909 at Thule, Greenland. Transcribed in Christian Leden’s book (1952, in German) on the music of certain Eskimos and its relationship to the music of American Indians.
A TURTLE POND, sung for Frances Densmore by Yellow Horse. Visit the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
WE CANNOT TURN BACK, sung for Frances Densmore by Woman Who Stands Aloof. Densmore explains that “When the warriors thought of the victory dances, they thought of the old women who sang the praises of successful fighting men. This song is addressed to them...”. Translation: "The old women, let them know: we cannot turn back." That is, “if the singer does not return, he is challenged to push forward.” Visit the Visit Cherokee and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
WHISTLE MELODY, based on a melody for carved cane whistle, as played for Frances Densmore during a 1933 visit to the Choctaw living near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Visit Choctaw Vision.
WHY SHOULD I BE JEALOUS?, Based on a song sung for Frances Densmore by Mrs. Mee before 1910. The words, translated: "Why should I, even I, be jealous because of that bad boy?" Densmore writes, “It is said that in the old times an Indian maid would lie face down on the prairie for hours at a time singing this song, the words of which are so very independent and the music so forlorn. The song was as often sung by a young man, the words being appropriately changed.” Visit Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
A WOLF I CONSIDERED MYSELF, based on a Lakota song by Gray Hawk for Frances Densmore. When sung twice, the words, translated, for the first rendition are as follows: "a wolf I considered myself but I have eaten nothing; therefore from standing I am tired out." For the second rendition: "a wolf I considered myself but the owls are hooting and the night I fear." See Those Are Not My Interest, also a wolf song.
WOMAN’S GAME SONG, sung for Frances Densmore by Amanda Wilson. Regarding the interesting and persistent rhythm, see Song of the Duck Dance. Densmore explains that “A favorite recreation of the women, in the spring, was the playing of a game similar to the hand game of the men. Two pairs of sticks were used, one stick of each pair being known as the female, and the other as the male...” Visit Konkow Valley Band of Maidu.
A YELLOW STAR, based on the singing of Wicita Blain for Frances Densmore. Blain told Densmore that “he composed this song when waking from a trance in the Ghost dance. He dreamed of a yellow star which came to him and said, ‘I am the star which you see in the sky at night’…in the form of a woman holding in her hand an eagle feather painted yellow.” Blain was a member of the Skidi Band and spent his early years in Nebraska, prior to the removal of the Pawnee to Oklahoma. Visit Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.
YO WI DANUWE YOWIDA-DANUWE, a Cherokee ball-playing song. This melody is found in one of John Philip Sousa’s books. See Híganúyahí.
Dakota Odowan, The Dakota Mission of the American Missionary Association and the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, John Poage Williamson and Alfred Longley Riggs, editors, 1879. This Dakota-language hymnal has been reprinted many times since 1879 and is currently in use.
Frances Densmore, books published by the Smithsonian Institution: Chippewa Music (1910), Teton Sioux Music (1918), Northern Ute Music (1922), Mandan and Hidatsa Music (1923), Papago Music (1929), Pawnee Music (1929), Yuman and Yaqui Music (1932), Menominee Music (1932), Choctaw Music (1943), Seminole Music (1956), Music of Acoma, Isleta, Cochiti and Zuñi Pueblos (1957).
Frances Densmore, monographs published by The Southwest Museum, Los Angeles: Cheyenne and Arapaho Music (1936), Music of the Maidu Indians of California (1958).
Norman Derrick Lehmer, “The Music and Poetry of the American Indians,” The Poetry Review (London), 1929, pages 333-340.
Alfred Longley Riggs, “Dakota Songs and Music.” (See the note for Be Afraid Indeed!.)
John Philip Sousa, National, Patriotic, and Typical Airs of All Lands, with Copious Notes, H. Coleman, Philadelphia, and C. Fischer, New York, 1890.
National Museum of the American Indian
American Indians and the Natural World (Carnegie Museum)
American Indian Music (Wikipedia)
Smithsonian Folkways: American Indian Recordings
Clicking will take you to Historical Notes, and from there you can download solos as PDFs (except for Collection 2, for which all the solos are published commercially).
Historical Notes for Collection 2: Christmas Carols; click here for access to the carols.
From Collection 9
A Wolf I Considered Myself (Lakota), bass recorder
Alligator Dance Song (Seminole), tenor recorder
Be Afraid, Indeed! (Dakota), alto recorder
The Butterfly You Painted Has Flown Away (Acoma Pueblo), soprano recorder
Children's Lightningbug Dance Song (Seminole), tenor recorder
Dancing Song of the Skunk (Mandan), tenor recorder
Father Gave Me a Pipe (Pawnee), soprano recorder
The Legend of Coyote and Superman 1 (Cocopah), tenor recorder
Renville (Dakota), soprano recorder
Song of the Duck Dance (Maidu), soprano recorder
Those Are Not My Interest (Lakota), tenor recorder
Woman's Game Song (Maidu), soprano recorder