Selling the North American Indian:
The Work of Edward Curtis

Created by Valerie Daniels, June 2002

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Academy of Music--Dark.
Bijou--"A Kentucky Romance," matinee and night.

The Music Saved the Show.

For the Benefit of the State Anti-Tuberculosis Association, the Nurses' Settlement and Edward S. Curtis, or his backers and promoters, two performances were given yesterday at the Academy of Music of the glowingly advertised and optimistically billed "picture-musicale," "A Vanishing Race."

In the afternoon Mr. Curtis was cordially and gracefully introduced by Dr. Douglas S. Freeman, executive secretary of the Anti-Tuberculosis Association, and in the evening Dr. Freeman introduced Chief George Cook, of our own tribe of Pamunkey Indians, who, in turn, presented the lecturer-author-photographer to the audience. This afforded Mr. Curtis an opportunity to say, doubtless with literal truth, that he, had been introduced by many eminent scientists, publicists and teachers, but that this was the first occasion upon which he had had the honor of being introduced to an audience by an Indian chief. Some press work--what?

Besides the music the entertainment consists of a somewhat flowery "foreword" by Mr. Curtis, and a number of, colored photographs thrown upon a screen, introduced in each instance by a more or less lengthy talk from the lecturer. Many of the pictures are prettily tinted representations of scenes of great natural beauty, while many others are simply colored photographs and Indians of the kind familiar to all magazine readers. Only two motion pictures are shown, both of them of interesting subjects, but both badly projected.

Doubtless Mr. Curtis is an authority on Indian lore, and the statement that he made all of the pictures shown is not even questioned, but the merit of the performance, from the "show" standpoint, is due entirely to a man whose name is not mentioned on the program, nor was he referred to in the evening--Henry F. Gilbert, of Cambridge, who wrote the overture and the accompanying music--and to the eight men of the orchestra who played it.

The music is genuinely beautiful-weird, wild and unusual in its queer melodies and unconventional harmonies. If Mr. Gilbert transcribed its fundamentals from the music of the Indians--and there is no reason to doubt that he did--it goes far to establish the fact that Puccini did show intelligence and breadth in writing an opera of our West of 1849, the critics to the contrary notwithstanding, for much of it brought to mind the music of "The Girl of the Golden West." And the orchestra played it in a manner that "saved the show."

W. D. G.

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