Imagining Native America in Music

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Michael V. Pisani

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This book offers a comprehensive look at musical representations of native America from the pre colonial past through the American West and up to the present. The discussion covers a wide range of topics, from the ballets of Lully in the court of Louis XIV to popular ballads of the nineteenth century; from eighteenth-century British-American theater to the musical theater of Irving Berlin; from chamber music by Dvoˆrák to film music for Apaches in Hollywood Westerns.

Michael Pisani demonstrates how European colonists and their descendants were fascinated by the idea of race and ethnicity in music, and he examines how music contributed to the complex process of cultural mediation. Pisani reveals how certain themes and metaphors changed over the centuries and shows how much of this “Indian music,” which was and continues to be largely imagined, alternately idealized and vilified the peoples of native America.

Michael V. Pisani is associate professor of music at Vassar College.

"Michael Pisani brilliantly combines precise musical analysis with rich cultural and historical contextualization, revealing the development of the Sound of Indian and its critical place in American life.  Undoubtedly the definitive work in the field—and destined to remain so for a very long time."—Phil Deloria, author of Indians in Unexpected Places

"This book . . . [is] about how Native American culture and its meaning were imagined musically. Pisani offers a skillful survey of how, through music, Europeans and Americans searched for their own identities in their confrontation with Native Americans for 500 years. . . . Essential."—Choice

"Extensively researched, well written, historically enlightened, and enlightening. . . . A rare and insightful study of the lineage of Native American exoticism in Western music compositions."—Klisala Harrison, Current Musicology

"The historic sweep of this book (almost five centuries) and the range of music explored (many hundreds of works in genres ranging from courtly entertainments, symphonies, parlor pieces to film scores) is astonishing. . . . Pisani compellingly traces the impact and long reach of the narratives, forms, and inherent ideologies of these works over time."—Beverley Diamond, Ethnomusicology

"Pisani has done two things of real importance. He has filled in a significant lacuna in our consideration of how Native America has been portrayed in Euro-American culture, and he has challenged historians to listen to the music that has always been a part of human experience and to take it seriously."—Steven Conn, American Historical Review

"Impressive. . . . The author states that his goal was to 'provoke readers into thinking more subtly about the language of musical stereotypes and their complex chain of influences.' I believe the author succeeded in this endeavor. In sum, Imagining Native America in Music features some intriguing ideas and is based on impeccable scholarship."—Maria Williams, The World of Music

Winner of the 2006 Deems Taylor Award sponsored by the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2006 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300108934
Publication Date: February 16, 2006
448 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
49 b/w illus. + musical examples