3 Native-American Melodies as Set by Arthur Farwell

This coming Sunday, Lakewood UCC celebrates UCC’s Native American Ministries. As part of that liturgy, all the music for the service is based on Native American melodies: 2 hymns, 3 songs set by the American composer, Arthur Farwell (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Farwell, https://songofamerica.net/composer/farwell-arthur/, and https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200035729), and one setting of my own. I’ll post my own setting—one I’ve posted before—later this week, but today’s post are the 3 Farwell settings combined into one video.

The Native American melodies (of primarily the Omaha tribe)) harmonized by Arthur Farwell were drawn from the late 19th Century 20 year research of Alice C. Fletcher, holder of the Thaw Fellowship, Peabody Museum, Harvard University.

Creative folk (musicians, authors, graphic artists, dancers, etc.) create amid a world of 7,874,965,825 ideas of what we should and shouldn’t do! It’s hard enough discerning what we believe ourselves, but the cultural noise gets deafening and discouraging sometimes. One bit of that cultural noise is the prohibition against “cultural approbation.” To make matters worse—regard that issue—white supremacists have taken up against the issue. One is damned if one does support cultural sensitivity or damned if one doesn’t!

Unless we wish to discard Debussy’s pieces based on the traits of Spanish music, Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, Ravel’s music based on Asian scales, Beethoven’s “Turkish March” in his 9th Symphony, and on and on and on…then, everyone needs to find their own comfort zone as to where the boundaries are regarding the setting of “folk” material. (I realize even the term, “folk,” has a colonialist tinge to it.)

My own feeling is that if a setting of other material is…

  • respectful,
  • fully acknowledges the source,
  • isn’t intended to represent itself as anything other than what it is, and
  • makes its own contribution to the material artistically,

…then it doesn’t deserve to be condemned for cultural approbation.

I believe Farwell’s setting (and hopefully my own) fall into the “approved” category.

Here’s some info about the UCC’s Native American Ministry. I especially like the first one!

“The 29th General Synod of the United Church of Christ approved a Resolution of Witness calling for the UCC to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, which authorized the genocide of native people and the theft of native lands. In that Resolution we recognize the complicity of the Churches, including the UCC, in the perpetration of these injustices.”


“The Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM) is the voice for American Indian people in the UCC. CAIM provides Christian ministry and witness to American Indians and to the wider church. Justice issues that affect American Indian life are communicated to the whole UCC by CAIM. “


Politics in art – a few links

from https://www.flickr.com/photos/99129398@N00/422228506/


Not much actual writing by me on this post because the only thing I feel competent to discuss is music itself. But, the topic is very important to me and, I believe, to everyone whether they think so or not. So what follows are links to some articles and art by others you might want to read or experience.

First, one on the topic itself, politics in art:

I mentioned songs of the abolitionists at the end of the previous article but didn’t follow up with specifics. Here a few you might consider:

For the same time period, songs of the underground railroad:

As I work on this post, I realize how totally insignificant my suggestions are compared to the overwhelming wealth of knowledge their is on the Internet. Just google [songs of the underground railroad] and you’ll be amazed…amazed!

Even the American revolution had its songs:

Of course, songs of the Civil War:

Of course, anti-war songs of the Vietnam war would take up a whole book:

Political songs aren’t limited to America. You are probably familiar with the song, Waltzing Matilda. There’s this:

No less an artist than Beethoven is no stranger to political statements in his art:

Back to America and an iconic American at that, Walt Whitman:

The fascists like to denigrate what they derisively refer to as “identity politics.” Of course, no one likes to have their art dismissed as “women’s film,” “gay poetry,” “Black music,” “Latin composers”…the list goes on. But, what can be more important to defend and espouse in one’s art than personal characteristics that are discriminated against in society. I recommend, if you feel uncomfortable with the people of any of those socially excluded categories, you seek out and steep yourself in their art and let what they express build your empathy for their identity. This is politics in art of the most personal sort. I’ll have a complete post on this sometime.

BUT FOR NOW… that’s enough words. Here’s a couple pro-union songs by Pete Seeger to send you on your way:

The times in which we live

I’m 75. I was born just before the end of WWII. So, I was of an age that as an undergrad and grad student in college and conservatory and in my early days as a young professor myself, many of my professors and colleagues were immigrant refugees from Nazi Germany (one from Communist East Europe). Their stories stay with me. One, quite literally, escaped out the rear of their home as the storm troopers came through the front door, leaving his wife so traumatized that decades later his wife always had to be in the protection of attack dogs. There are too many stories I could tell.

It’s hard for me to write this post because it’s supposed to be just a blog about music composition. But totalitarian politics, especially fascism, has always impacted music. Last night’s bullying by Trump on the national stage and his open favoriting of a fascist terrorist group–and a history of similar statements–compels me to give this statement of principle. Right-wing fascist philosophy must be uprooted and banished from America forever.

If you disagree with the philosophy of that and the songs that follow, please un-follow me, because…

“We must always take sides… Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

— Elie Wiesel

Since this is a music site, I’ll say most of what I have to say via songs.

Plus, a food for thought article…


And an article with links to a few more songs, some more contemporary…


If you’ve read this far, thank you. If you’d like to examine the history of the role of music in progressive causes, all you need to do look at the songs the abolitionists used in the struggle to end slavery. They’re still sung in churches today.

Ending this article with my absolute favorite Pete Seeger song! I love, love, love this song.

%d bloggers like this: