Review of Pisani, Michael V. 2005. Imagining Native America in Music. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press

Harrison, Klisala

Pisani’s book traces the origins and development of the musical tropes for Native Americans in several contexts: European court entertainments from 1550 to 1760; anti-colonial British-American theater and songs from 1710 to 1808; parlor songs, musical theater, and concert works from 1795 to 1860 that addressed colonial conquest; ethnographic representations of Native American music in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; American instrumental character pieces, string quartets, and symphonic works at the turn of the twentieth century; early twentieth-century parlor songs, concert songs, American operas, and Broadway musicals; and Native American music in film, especially in Hollywood Westerns. As this list of contents demonstrates, Imagining Native America in Music will appeal to scholars from various academic fields working on a variety of topics and areas. The monograph bridges musicology, performance practice studies, ethnomusicology, history, indigenous studies, theater studies, and film studies. Pisani’s research is impressively thorough. His detailed examination of hundreds of scores of art music, antiquated popular music, and musical theater compositions took him to a number of archives including the British Library, the Library of Congress, the American Folklife Center, and the Smithsonian Institution. His book offers evocative sonic descriptions of rarely performed American art music from the turn of the twentieth century, as well as comprehensive repertoire lists and over thirty-two music transcriptions and reprints (though the large number of musical examples and analyses may deter the non-musically trained scholar).


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August 18, 2022