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date: 14 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Early comparative musicology habitually ignored, even extinguished, timbre in its single-minded focus on pitch. This chapter traces the broader social, cultural, and political consequences of this framework. It surveys how, at the turn of the twentieth century, John Comfort Fillmore and Benjamin Ives Gilman followed the lead of Alice Fletcher and Alexander Ellis in deploying a broad range of technologies—phonograph, Helmholtz resonator, keyboard, and musical notation—to develop frameworks for analyzing essential similarities and differences between Native American and Western musics. It argues that such scholarship, while ostensibly aimed at salvaging Native American music, also served American efforts to reform and silence indigenous voices. The postscript examines the resonances between their theories and modern frameworks of parametric analysis that construe pitch and timbre as autonomous, and proposes that there may be unrecognized perils in overly articulating the boundaries between pitch and timbre to focus analytical attention exclusively on the measurable quantities of musical sound.

Keywords: pitch-timbre relationship, early recording technology, transcription, keyboard, comparative musicology, ethnocentrism, cultural relativism, Native American music, music perception, parametric analysis

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