Natalie Curtis Burlin
A Life in Native and African American Music
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
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Table of Contents
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List of Illustrations
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I would like to thank the many people who deserve credit for their invaluable assistance and support during the writing of this book. My work here grew out of my dissertation research at Purdue University, and I would first like to thank the members of my committee. Donald L. Parman serves as a model scholar for me, and I deeply ...
Introduction: Why Remember Natalie Curtis?
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In a Paris cemetery on All Saintsâ Day in 1921, a small group of American and French artists and musicians joined the throngs of people marking the holiday to honor a recently deceased American woman they wanted to remember as saintly. The group met to honor Natalie Curtis, an amateur ethnomusicologist and writer on Native American...
1. An "Atmosphere of Culture and High Purpose": Family Influences in a Changing America
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Natalie Curtis, an âattractive and amiable child with large frank blue eyes, pink cheeks and golden hair,â was born in New York City on April 26, 1876, the fourth of six children of Edward and Augusta Curtis.1 Natalie and her siblings, Julia, Constance, George De Clyver, Bridgham, and Marian, grew up in a period of...
2. "They Don't Know What Bliss Is!": Curtis's Musical Adolescence
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Natalie Curtis came of age in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. One is tempted to look at these formative years to discover clues as to why a privileged young woman from New York City would choose to study and promote the music of Native Americans and African Americans. Why did Curtis forsake a career in classical music to devote herself to musical traditions so unlike those of her youth? Were there seeds of change...
3. "I Am Full of Plans": Curtis Discovers Native Americans and Their Music
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In the summer of 1903 Natalie Curtis excitedly wrote President Theodore Roosevelt to share her enthusiasm for Native American music and art and her proposal to preserve and promote these valuable treasures with âall educated persons.â Thanking the president for supporting her endeavors, Curtis exclaimed,...
4. "The Pencil in the Hand of the Indian": Curtis and The Indians' Book
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"This is the Indiansâ Book,â the southern Cheyenne leader Hiamovi, or High Chief, began his foreword to Natalie Curtisâs major work on Native American song and story. âThrough this book,â he implored, âmay men know that the Indian people was [sic] made by the Great Mystery for a purpose.â They had welcomed white âstrangersâ to the land divinely ordained for them...
5. "The White Friend": Curtis and Indian Reform
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The Indiansâ Book differed from similar collections of music and folklore in its insistence that it be used as a tool to improve the lives of Native Americans. Curtis desired to encourage the administrators and teachers in the Indian school system to end their relentless attacks on studentsâ cultures. She wanted government officials to better understand...
6. Folk Songs of a "Very Musical Race": Curtis and African Amerian Music
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In the 1918 introduction to the second book of Negro Folk Songs Natalie Curtis explained her rationale for collecting African American spirituals and other songs. She had begun this work several years earlier at the request of âa group of earnest colored menâ who asked her to âdo for the music of their race...
7. "The Spirit of the Real America": Curtis's Search for an American Identity
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On February 19, 1915, Natalie Curtis sat in the Academy in Philadelphia listening to the rehearsal of Ferruccio Busoniâs Indian Fantasy. Having once taken lessons with the great pianist, Curtis had supplied Busoni with a âfew Indian melodiesâ that she thought appropriate for âgreater development and expansionâ in a larger work. Busoniâs Indian Fantasy,...
Conclusion: Remembering Natalie Curtis
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On October 23, 1921, an automobile struck Natalie Curtis Burlin as she descended from a streetcar in Paris. She died two hours aft er the accident, without having regained consciousness. This tragedy shocked her family, friends, and patrons. At the time of her death Paul Burlin was painting in Marseilles at his studio and failed to join his wife before she...
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Page Count: 430
Illustrations: 12 illustrations
Publication Year: 2010