UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An Ahousat elder's songs : transcription and analysis Bowles, Kathleen E.


This study examines the development of a comprehensive transcription method for Northwest Coast Native music. In the past, ethnomusicologists have presented methodologies which sometimes lacked data useful for present comparative studies. For this reason, research for this study was conducted in the field to gain a more complete understanding of both musical and cultural characteristics. Eighteen songs were recorded for this study between November 1990 and February 1991. They were sung by Mr. Peter Webster, an Ahousat elder of the Central Nuu-chah-nulth people located on Flores Island near Tofino on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Melodies, drum rhythms and song texts were discussed in depth with Mr. Webster, thus providing many musical and cultural insights from an 'emie' (inside) point of view. Much of this information is included with the song transcriptions and analyses. Song texts are presented in the T'aat'aaqsapa dialect of the Nuu-chah-nulth language, together with English translations, Comparisons are also made with Ida Halpern's 1974 recording, Nootka: Indian Music of the Pacific Northwest to determine the extent of musical continuity and variation over this brief period. One of the limitations of my work has been the lack of opportunity to record songs during the ceremonies in which they are usually performed, such as potlatches or tlukwanas. Another limitation has been the Western notation system, which, as received, is not sufficiently flexible for the transcription of Native music. For this study, additional descriptive signs have beau created to adapt the Native musical characteristics to the Western notation system. While the method developed in this study has facilitated the transcription of Nuu-chah-nulth music, there is still a need for further development of an independent notation system. A clear, comprehensive transcription method, flexible enough to accommodate this music, has been the primary aim of this study. If this transcription method is useful for transcribing other Native musics, then future comparative music studies will benefit from it.

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