Monthly Archives: September 2014

Posting for 9/30/14 Class

Now playing: Psychedelic Jungle by The Cramps

The readings/’listenings’ for this week were very interesting. I rarely get around to listening to and reading about music from 50 years ago, let alone several hundreds of years.

What struck me most was the complexity of song ownership in Native American culture, and how it might be compared to modern copyright and the music industry. Where this comparison may fall apart is how modern copyright is seemingly more about cash, while the clear ownership rights of songs in the NW Native tradition are tied to social standing, spirituality, and so much more. The traditions of sacred song ownership extend well into the modern area as seen in the controversy surrounding the recording of Tommy Bob’s Skagit Guardian Spirit Song.

One thing I found very difficult about these readings was navigating the Native American terminology and tribal names/locations. I think this difficulty has more to do with the lack of previous background in their history than with inherent difficulty learning about them.

Sercombe’s thesis also contained many interesting elements. Her exploration of Salish music delved more into its ties with storytelling and history, a different focus from Rhodes’ more musical analysis. I also appreciated her points about the increasing trend of including Natives in collecting data about their culture, as well as noting specifics about the data, the entire narrative when recording a song. This raises questions for all kinds of music; how valuable is a song in a vacuum, separated from any background knowledge? Is it bad practice to listen to music without knowing its full history, its origins, its performers, the emotions of the performance? Sercombe notes that as time has gone on, researchers recording Salish songs are being much more intentional in collecting more details, creating a story rather than just an unaccompanied piece of data such as sheet music or an audio recording. In my opinion, this is a very important trend as I believe proper background knowledge gives respect to its creator’s original intent. But this also goes back to my earlier questions of whether it is appropriate to present the songs without this full background and allow it to possibly take on new meaning for new listeners. This has certainly happened before, in the case of the Pearl Jam song Alive.

Some things I hope to get out of our discussion are:

  • A better understanding of the geography of NW Native Americans to better understand differences in music and culture.
  • A better handle on Rhodes’ musical analysis of the Skagit Guardian Spirit Song.
  • More exploring of how the NW Natives feel about all of their culture being put on display through the archiving and recording of music and stories (modern point of view is that almost all music is made for others to hear, even the whole world. Some of these songs are very private for the NW Natives).
  • What in the articles/music peaked others’ interest.

Thanks for tuning in,

– William

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