The Indigenous Experience in Twentieth-Century Musical Indianism

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Clark, Victoria, Music - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Puri, Michael, Music, University of Virginia

This dissertation reconsiders the American Indian experiences of and reactions to musical Indianism. Indianism was a non-Native intellectual ideology in the early twentieth century that capitalized on the spirituality, primitivity, and authenticity of American Indians as America’s “folk” people for philosophical and aesthetic desires. Some Indianist composers wrote original music inspired by the new influx of American Indian music published by music ethnographers like Alice Fletcher and Frances Densmore at the turn of the century. Others borrowed transcribed melodies verbatim and composed a piece around what they assumed was an authentic American Indian melody. While the composers were White, American Indians were involved in every aspect of musical Indianism. They engaged in and resisted music ethnography, performed and popularized Indianist songs, outwardly supported and critiqued Indianist composers, and participated in Indianist concerts in boarding and reservation schools. American Indian lives are inextricably woven into the history of musical Indianism. Framing Indianism with their stories offers more profound insights into the complexities of Indianist music and its impact on the broader American Indian community in the early twentieth century.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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