Marc Simmons: Pueblo music in pre-European times
Monday, June 1, 2009
"When Spaniards under Coronado first visited New Mexico in 1540, they
observed many aspects of Pueblo Indian culture that amazed them. The
expedition's chronicler, Pedro de Castañeda, recorded these in his official report,
initially translated into English in 1896.
One of his entries caught my eye. It described a typical grinding room in
one of the Tiwa pueblos near present day Albuquerque. The room was furnished
with three mealing bins, each containing its stone metate, upon which corn
was ground using a mano, or hand stone.
By custom, a trio of women would work together, moving in unison. "While
they grind," said Castañeda, "a man is seated at the door playing a flute. To
the melody, they draw their stones and sing in three parts."
What interested me was mention of the flute, the melody and singing in
three parts. That is because one occasionally runs across modern statements
claiming that Pueblos and other Indians did not actually produce artistic
compositions that can qualify under our definition of music.
British author D.H. Lawrence, who spent time here in the early 1920s,
dismissed that notion. He defended the repetitive chants he heard at corn
dances, writing that "the deep sound of men's singing is like the booming and
tearing of a wind deep inside a forest," and rating it as music, if not quite
in the accepted sense "
Get the Story:
_Marc Simmons: Trail Dust: Bringing centuries-old sounds to life _
ng-centuries-old-sounds-to-life) (The Santa Fe New Mexican 5/30)