An American Suite

An American Suite


Click the links below to hear the movements.

1. Native American
2. African American
3. The Old Fiddler

SKU: FM715 Categories: ,


Charles Wakefield Cadman (1881-1946) was an American composer, becoming a specialist in the music of the native American tribes. Unusually for the time his musical training was completely done in America, initially in Pennsylvania and then Pittsburgh. He was appointed music editor and critic for the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1908. He was greatly influenced by American Indian music, and published several articles on the subject. He also toured the US and Europe for 25 years with a lecture known as ‘Indian Talk’ or ‘Indian Music Tour’ accompanied by Native American musicians featuring their folk music and his own compositions. He collaborated with the celebrated ethnologist France La Flesche on an opera – Da O Ma. This was completed in 1912, but was never presented or published. Undaunted, they began work on a second opera although La Flesche withdrew due to artistic differences. Instead, Cadman and his lifelong writing partner Nelle Richmond Eberhart collaborated with a Muscogee/Cherokee singer who had accompanied Cadman on his lecture tours – Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone. She provided much of the plot of the opera, based on contemporary Native American issues. The finished work was called The Robin Woman (or Shanewis), and was a great success. The Metropolitan Opera of New York included it in both their 1918 and 1919 seasons, with further performances in Denver and Los Angeles. In the 1920’s Cadman moved to Los Angeles, where he helped to found the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Charles Cadman was a member of the Indianist Movement in America, a group of composers who tried to incorporate Native American musical ideas into the Western classical tradition with the aim of producing truly American national music. In this piece, the main theme of the first movement is based on an authentic Omaha Indian tune, collected by Alice C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche. This theme is whipped around in almost barbaric fury, around a gentler second theme. The second movement is based on two African American melodies recorded by Rosa Warren Wilson in South Carolina, both of which have a gentle, lullaby like quality. The last movement uses two old American fiddler tunes – ‘There’s Sugar in the Gourd’ and ‘Hoop-de-doo-den-do’. These two tunes are passed around the whole flute orchestra until a grand ending brings the music to a close.

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