Marc Simmons: Pueblo music in pre-European times
"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 (The Santa Fe New Mexican 5/30)

Related Stories:
Marc Simmons: An uprising at Taos Pueblo in 1847 (4/27)
Marc Simmons: Geronimo's home was in New Mexico (3/9)
Marc Simmons: Archaeologist unearthed Pueblo life (2/16)
Marc Simmons: Tribes, Spanish united against threat (12/8)
Marc Simmons: A Spanish report looks at Pueblos (12/1)
Marc Simmons: An Apache warrior's escape (11/17)
Marc Simmons: Gallup Inter-Tribal grows steadily (8/25)
Marc Simmons: Indian man hanged for failed uprising (8/4)