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Performance and Presentation

Jay Cravath Ph.D

The Music and Ritual of Southwest Native Americans​

It is enjoyable for Dr. Cravath to see the connections audiences make as I trace the remarkable rituals from the Southwest tribes and compare them using live and recorded music, stories and verse. With four language groups represented, each group has it’s unique musical and ethnographic characteristics as well as interesting similarities. The Great Tellings of the Mohave are also descriptions that mapped journeys to the Mission Tribes, songs of the Navajo taught moral lessons, and the Apaches had a ritual component for “teen dances.” The oral history was kept alive through these traditions. Music was an important part of social life for our tribes: daily swimming songs of the Pima, the Yavapai Cricket songs sung during acorn gathering, the Apache Old Big Owl Witch Song,  sung to enjoin children to good behavior. Paintings and archival photographs as well as live and recorded music are interactively shared.

The Instruments and Music of Southwest Pioneers

The story of our state is not complete without music. Using musical instruments and stories, Dr. Cravath presents an artistic tableau of our past: heroes, villains, and the immigrants of our great state. From the rich traditions and ceremonies of our Indigenous tribes to the Europeans they encountered: Coronado, in search of the seven cities of gold; Father Kino and the proselytizers; the independent and military explorers and immigrants; the rich history is told through illustrations, song, narrative and interactive participation.

Romancing the Southwest: Songs of Love and Marriage 

The abundance of love songs did not begin with Italian opera or Top 40 radio. Though  troubadours and trouvere’ of the 11th and 12th centuries  created the notion of romantic love through their music, song born out of or revised by the travels of lonely soldiers, cowboys and adventurers of the pioneer west, are as poignant as any. They can also be maudlin, hyperbolic and downright nonsensical.  The courting flute of the Apache boy, the Navajo circle “teen” dances and pan-Indian pow wow laments called forty nines, represent some of the Native offerings. Various other pioneers brought their favorites, revised “oldies” based on their current adventures, and penned new odes that are widely included in folklore anthologies. Dr. Craváth shares the history and genres using live and recorded music as well as slides.

Along the California Trail

An ancient set of Indian paths and the natural flow of the Gila River created a major artery for travel through pioneer Arizona. The Gila provided a ready route for the earliest traders, including Toltecs of Mexico, who traded with the Mogollon, Anasazi and Hohokam. The intrepid Padre Francisco Garces, performed missionary work during six excursions along the trail. As well, Bautista de Anza and Marcos de Niza passed by. Various U.S. surveying expeditions, immigrants—such as the ill-fated Oatman family—and seekers of the California gold fields join the list. The journals, stories, songs and art that came from these travels is rich and revealing of our state’s pioneers. Using visuals, live music and recitation, Dr. Craváth shares the diverse history. [This program is offered at no cost to the sponsoring organization as it is part of the special grant for the Journey Stories initiative]

Song Collection: Wellspring of Music

Music rises out of the land and culture of the immigrants and residents. Using literature, such as Vanished Arizona, Crazy Weather, as well as memoirs and diaries, I link them to their musical performance. This program has been popular because the written word is made manifest in the music and its historical context. Diverse musical genres unique in their characteristics are revealed: the polyrhythms of Mohave Bird Songs, rich tradition of Mormon Pioneer music, songs of the Chemehuevi that mapped hunting territory, tragic ballads that arose out of local history, to name a few. The landscape of the southwest and its cross-fertilization of cultures enriched the music further. Cowboy poets like Gail Gardner, whose song about Prescott brush cattling, “The Sierry Petes,” demonstrate the originality of our artists. Mandolin was taught as a subject in Globe schools at the turn of the century. The speaker discusses the importance of music in everyday life as the glue that brought people together. Live and recorded music as well as lecture are included to share the richness of our musical traditions.

Instruments as Time Capsules

For a musician, the song is often recalled easiest with instrument in hand. It conjures history when played in the manner of the day. This program allows me to bring and demonstrate a number of my favorite and obscure musical instruments. Among those demonstrated are: the balalaika, dulcimer, harp, guitar, Hohokam bone flute and mandola. The rolling gourd rattle before a Mohave Bird song carries the vocal. A banjo’s four-bar intro brings the audience to quiet and readies the dancers. Musical instruments in Arizona are a diverse as the immigrants who traveled through and settled in our state. As an multi-instrumentalist, I enjoy discussing and demonstrating how musical instruments have been an integral part of the musical experience: from assisting with oral memory of pieces, to providing a time capsule opened when the song is played.

Miners, Cowboys and Washerwomen: the Work Songs of Arizona

In a lively and entertaining portrait of working class music, Dr. Cravath explores its roots and rhythms. From the cotton fields of Chandler to the crooked streets of Jerome, songs were companions to the immigrants who explored and built our state. Through performance and discussion, this subject, which reveals so much of the nature and character of a people, is considered. Comments from the Ajo Library include: “A program could not be more enjoyable”; “Very very wonderful!”;  Excellent humor, knowledge, experience, ‘the works.”

The Melody of the Southwest

A melody is like a story: linear narrative with a beginning, middle and
end. When performed, it can arouse profound emotion, move a young girl to
love and reawaken the poignancy of times long forgotten. The music of Arizona
is as varied as those who have come to this place. Songs carried on the trail
from an old home, or new ones made here, express the values, humor and
aspirations of our citizens. Dr. Cravath explores these time capsules of humanity
with the guitar, banjo, dulcimer and mandolin.

The Ballad of Arizona

“To sing that story so all might know” rings true in Arizona’s history and its quest for statehood. However, the ballad has been delivering the news since preliterate times. The Iliad was sung around Achaean campfires before Homer codified it. Traveling Druids intoned the tabloids under the oaks of Ireland for a rapt audience. Native Americans retold their “Old Testament” in song cycles—the origin, hero myths and moral lessons. The ballad has carried ancient stories as a means of helping memorization and spontaneous memory recall. They didn’t need the left-right brain studies of the ’60’s to know this. Dr. Craváth tours this most important song form—from the ancients, through the troubadours and into our own back yard, as cowboys sang of their toils and adventures, Latinos, their corridos, and even contemporary political broadsides.

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