The Death Song of the Cherokee Indian

We are currently preparing for the London book fair, and here’s one item we shall be exhibiting.  It’s a volume of manuscript music compiled in the 1820s containing approximately seventy pieces, one of which is ‘The Death Song of the Cherokee Indian’, a piece notable for its impact on the British mind on the subject of Native American resistance.  ‘It was first published anonymously, ca. 1780, but the text is by the Scottish-born poet Anne Hunter [wife of John Hunter, the famous surgeon], who later included it in her published collection of poems in 1802 …  It is not difficult to see why this song became so popular.  The rhythms are snappy.  The melody has logic, drive, and purpose …  A feature that stands out in Hunter’s version is the elegant bass line.  It is so beautifully tailored … that it’s almost a singable melody in itself …  By 1785 the song had already been published in the United States’, and two years later it appeared in Royall Tyler’s The Contrast, the first play by an American-born writer known to have been produced onstage.  Musicologist John Koegel has found fifty-seven separate printed and manuscript sources of “The Death Song of the Cherokee Indians” in England and the United States dated between 1780 and 1855 (and suggests that there are likely more to be found)’ (Michael V. Pisani, Imagining Native America in Music, Yale UP, 2005, pp. 53, 57–9).

This copy adds another to that corpus.

 

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