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The Singing of the New World: Indigenous Voice in the Era of European Contact (review)

Renae Watchman Dearhouse

The American Indian Quarterly, Volume 33, Number 3, Summer 2009, pp. 416-418 (Article) Published by University of Nebraska Press DOI: 10.1353/aiq.0.0055

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ther cyclic oppression and marginalization. She then exposes the cumulative effects of ethnoviolence, which include internalized and interracial group violence. This is particularly useful for those working in the human service field in Indian Country today in viewing interracial violence as an outgrowth of oppression and a systemic versus individual concern. Within the final chapter examples of Native American individuals proactive reactions to hate crimes are discussed, including utilizing positive coping strategies that can ultimately create sociopolitical change. As a reader I was left uplifted that individuals who experience hate crimes can still find ways to combat oppression and feel empowered in doing so, consequently instilling a sense of hope. Some practical actions are recommended by Perry and the interviewees such as decolonizing public schools educational curriculum, speaking up when stereotypes are seen, and overall Native nations taking action to reduce hate crimes. Too often the societal context and voices of the individuals are not heard in ethnoviolence. The focus becomes one of the communities and a clash between cultures. Not only is Perry able to provide historical and contemporary context succinctly, but her interviewees are able to provide empowering suggestions to overcome this institutional pattern, thus providing a useful framework for educating non-Natives as well. Practitioners, educators, researchers, and lay people alike could gain illumination into societys perpetuation of hate crimes and social underpinnings of marginalized groups. Perry effectively narrates the complexities of this historical and sociopolitical relationship throughout her writing. Furthermore, the victims individual experiences can break past stereotypes and make the reader aware of the impact of oppression on daily life. Native readers may be armed with some clear strategies for change, while non-Native readers could expand the books discussions, exploring opportunities to stop the cycle of oppression. In sum, this book is an insightful, informative, and quick read for anyone interested in violence and trauma in Native communities.

Gary Tomlinson. The Singing of the New World: Indigenous Voice in the Era of European Contact. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 230 pp. Cloth, $91.00. Renae Watchman Dearhouse, University of Arizona Part of a broad series called New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism, Gary Tomlinsons The Singing of the New World is a novel musicohistorical study, not rooted in ethnography, despite the ever-present Indigenous subject. He explores Indigenous singing and songthe voiceof the Mexica (Aztecs), the Inca, and the Tupinamba, which remain muted or misunderstood, often eclipsed by the singers themselves.


american indian quarterly/summer 2009/vol. 33, no. 3

Tomlinson begins with an historical introduction to Indigenous singing, or what he calls Raised Voices. As a study of Indigenous voice in the era of European contact, Tomlinsons journey commences in 1505 in Bermuda, where the island was void of people but abundant with voices. After the events of 1492 travel increased, and Bermuda became a rest stop where travelers lightened their load; pigs, for example, were abandoned and rapidly multiplied. Maritime explorers mentioned, mapped, and stamped Bermuda but did not colonize the isle. Because of the ostensible voices and lack of human life, it became known as the Isle of the Devils. Tomlinson reveals that the raised voices they heard were not demons but were really birds and pigs, but the travelers fear of the unknown fueled their imaginations. Tomlinson wants to avoid imaginative interpretations of the Indigenous voice, and he advocates the study of the primary sources, the songs. Tomlinson points out, however, that despite the power of song, Aztec/Incan songs do not exist in reconstituted form, and he refers to the surviving traces of Aztec Song (11), which he reads through preserved codices, detailed pictographs, Indigenous alphabetized Nahuatl song, and finally, but with a critical eye, European sources. Tomlinson begins chapter 1, Unlearning the Aztec Cantares, with the following observation: Scholars have moved far to restore the writing of pre-Columbian America; not so its singing (9). To unlearn the Aztec cantares, Tomlinson rehashes current and former scholarly debates, engaging European philosophers and outlining their ideologies. Through song, poetry, metaphor, and writing (which includes pictography), Europeans defined (and continue to define) indigeneity. One example is the sixteenth-century cantares mexicanos, which are Nahuatl songs that have been Europeanized by a Latin alphabet. As such, they have been reinvented as literature and poetry and should be unlearned. Tomlinson argues that the cantares mexicanos can best be understood through metonymy, the topic of chapter 2. In Metonymy, Writing, and the Matter of Mexica Song Tomlinson takes issue with the fact that the cantares mexicanos, once sung and vocalized, are now read as literature, which mutes them. Alongside ancient songs exist ancient texts in the form of symbols inscribed onto pictographs and intricately carved instruments. They depict a narrative through which surface interpretation is meaningless, and Tomlinson argues that both song and text can be heard through metonymy. In a subchapter titled Music Writing Tomlinson reverts his gaze from Indigenous singers and commends the work of Jean de Lry (15361613), who traveled to Brazil in 1556. His travelogue reflects the singing of the Tupinamba, and he is one of the few who attempted to hear the Indigenous voice by ultimately putting Tupinamba song into readable music notation. Tomlinson reiterates in chapter 3 that the cantares mexicanos are not to be read but to be sung, drummed, and danced (50). Aware of his own deficiency of readBook Reviews


ing, translating, and writing out his argument, Tomlinson has no choice but to offer written excerpts of the ninety-one cantares mexicanos in Nahuatl (which he translates) and English. Tomlinson provides in-depth musicological analysis and probes the meaning and usage of the language, the use of vocables, and the intent of drumming. He cautiously scrutinizes their entertainment value by looking at the public and private performances as they were documented. Tomlinson also offers a convincing thematic justification of the songs through metonymy, and he reverts to a seventeenth-century Nahuatl and Otomi linguist to clearly show how Nahuatl was manipulated to give the songs meaning. To conclude this rich chapter, Tomlinson notes that despite aggressive colonial activities songs have resisted and exist beyond AD 1700, as evidenced by the Zapotec cantares, which prompts the query whether more songbooks of varying linguistic regions of Indigenous Mexico lie somewhere dormant, waiting to be discovered. Chapter 4, Musicoanthropophagy: The Songs of Cannibals, begins with a juxtaposition of the words orality and oratory. Both words evoke the human mouth as the means to speaking, singing, and eating. Tomlinson depicts the Tupinamba of Brazil and their well-documented cannibalism, or flesh exchange. He illuminates their long but misunderstood oratory that preceded the anthropophagic act. In one of the most enlightening moments of this book Tomlinson discusses the role of the gourd as instrument, as body, as spirit, and as voice. The maraca had a manifold purpose to cannibal cultures, and Tomlinson highlights the maraca as voice, which is reminiscent of how some Native societies today regard the drum as the heartbeat. The chapter ends with an analysis of the interconnectedness of Tupinamba song and cannibalism and is followed by a chapter about the powerful and complex Indigenous political and religious song entitled Inca Singing at Cuzco. The final chapter, Fear of Singing, provides many examples of the reciprocal fear of the Other through song. Bringing us full circle, Tomlinson re-creates initial moments of contact between Indigenous Americans and Europeans and their reaction to raised voices. As voices raised, so did fear, which prompted defense tactics, and in some cases war ensued. In this chapter Tomlinson crosses borders and centuries and compares the sixteenth-century taki-onqoy (Quechua for song-dance sickness) to the nineteenth-century Ghost Dance and their similar consequences. In both instances the Indigenous voice through song was misunderstood and thus feared, and both led to the massacre of innocent Indigenous inhabitants. Gary Tomlinson makes the visual traces of Indigenous song audible. The study would benefit more if the role of female singers was covered more indepth, as the bulk of his work concerns male singers and drummers. It is a fresh look at the silenced Indigenous and their overlooked musical history, and it should be on Indigenous scholars shelves.


american indian quarterly/summer 2009/vol. 33, no. 3