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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Music and Culture Areas of Native California


This paper sketches the principal music and culture areas of native California and identifies general characteristics that distinguish the region in the overall sphere of Native American music. Rather than provide notations or detailed analyses I describe the music according to a set of general parameters that I have found useful in previous comparative research. The following elements are considered: (1) vocal quality or timbre; (2) presence of words or vocables, text-setting, and repetition of text; (3) musical organization or texture; (4) musical form or structure, including phrase-length; (5) melodic range or ambitus; (6) melodic contour or direction; (7) scale, particularly number of tones in scale; (8) rhythm, especially meter; and (9) other notable tendencies. For readers who want more detailed information, sources describing the music or the performance contexts of public singing are noted throughout.

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