Selling the North American Indian:
The Work of Edward Curtis

Created by Valerie Daniels, June 2002

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Composed by Henry Gilbert and Performed at Lecture on a " Vanishing Race"

A new voice and a strong one in the world of Indian music was heard at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday evening, November 15, when Henry Gilbert, with an orchestra, gave his new Indian musical developments as an accompanying feature to the lecture by Edward S. Curtis on the "Story of a Vanishing Race." Mr. Curtis is widely known as the author of the "North American Indian," a colossal work in many volumes presenting in Mr. Curtis's remarkable photographs, as well as in literary form, an exhaustive view of the North American tribes. The lecture was under the auspices of the League for Political Education.

The lecture was devoted largely to the Indian ceremonies, as the lecturer wished to emphasize the deeper side of Indian life. The purely picturesque aspects were given but a small space in the program. Many of Mr. Curtis's photographs, including tile now widely known "Vanishing Race," were thrown upon the screen. These were accompanied by orchestral suites following the sequence of the pictures. Mr. Gilbert during the past year has made many transcriptions from the Indian phonographic records made by Mr. Curtis, and largely upon Indian melodies drawn from this source were the compositions constructed.

Mr. Gilbert's music throughout was of the most deeply impressive nature. These compositions are far from being mere adaptations of Indian melodies. They are, in short, original compositions of a serious sort filled with the particularly rich quality of Mr. Gilbert's imagination, and heightened in expressiveness by his very unusual sense of orchestral color. This work is veritable symphonic writing, and these compositions should be made available for concert performance where it is certain that they will hold their place with the richest and most colorful in modern compositions.

There was in orchestral prelude, "The Spirit of Indian Life," magnificently broad in style. Extremely impressive also was a suite to accompany the "Dream of the Ancient Red Man," a dissolving picture series of great beauty. "Evening in Hopi Land" was particularly successful and showed the composers sympathetic capacity in treating the music of the Pueblo Indians as contrasted with that of the Plains Indians. The music to accompany the "Arrow" ceremony and that for a most extraordinary series of pictures in the Canon de Chelly were among the most impressive works.

Some seventeen compositions were heard as conducted by Mr. Gilbert with a hidden orchestra. There was much applause for both pictures and music and for the lecturer's work throughout the evening, and Mr. Gilbert was called for on many hands at the close and was greeted with evident enthusiasm. There was an audience which packed Carnegie hall to the doors.

Arthur Farwell

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