Native American music
Native American music is theoretically based on the melodic line created from the five note, pentatonic scales. The basic elements are voices, drums and other percussive instruments, the wooden flute ( perhaps the oldest wind instrument we have to recreate our music from the spheres ). The beat / time signature of the music being almost exclusively 4 / 4, ( like most blues music ), with the first beat of each group often recieving the accent. Unique in that when the various drum parts are layered together, the imperfections within the performance creates a sort of living polyrhythm of sound, an echo effect which is oftentimes very transcending spiritually for the listeners.
There are no chords or harmonic scheme per say in original Native American music. Any sense of harmony would come from the combination of the singers and the varying of their pitch, all of whom are singing the melody together in unison. This varying of pitch and interpretation along with differently sized and pitched drums creates a rich and full sound, an "older" harmony from a long ago time, that lasted tens of thousands of years perhaps. This older harmony perhaps providing part of the impetus in the evolving of our new harmony of today, as created from equal temper, which has been in use for perhaps the last 500 years or so. This approach to everyone singing the melody together is also said to be part of the early blues traditions. 1
The spoken, sung or instrumental melody is repeated to create a "chanting" of the melodic idea, which through repetition and oftentimes a gradually speeding up of the drum accompaniment, brings the music to climax. It is in the hypnotic repetition of the groove that helps to center the consciousness and climax the music. Oftentimes the tonic and dominant pitches are the essential pitches in Native American lines, these two pitches alone can create a sense of rest and unrest so to speak, creating a basic sense of form, structure within a piece. Mainly in the minor tonality, Native American music is like so much the music of ancient cultures from around the globe. The simple melodies focus on the power of the intervals created between the pitches, connecting the players and listeners to the essence of their earth, providing a linking to the music from the spheres. Example 1.
New age music. New age music is often a reflection of the Eastern philosophies of wisdom merging with the basic elements of Western music. It ranges from the sounds of a trickling brook and ocean surf to lush orchestral scorings of simple pentatonic ideas presented in a meditative way. Rarely fast, new age music flows with the natural world, often using the same instruments as in native American music. To this is added sounds of nature, synthesized keyboard sounds with a shimmer of vibrato, a wooden flute playing a gentle pentatonic melody weaving between the major and minor tonalities. The mood is reflective, soothing, loving and tender, bringing forth these qualities in the listeners, seeking to soothe and caress the soul.
Curriculum. Here are a few suggestions for the emerging Native American musical artist.
Do you have the pitches of the minor pentatonic color under your fingers?
Can you sing these pitches?
How is your skill in keeping time with a drum? Are you cool with the principles of subdividing the pulse?
One. Marshall W. Stearns. The Story Of Jazz. New York, Oxford University Press, 1956. 252 p.
Listen, or thy tongue will keep you deaf ...
American Indian Proverb