JF Ptak Science Books Post 3636
I first came upon Jesse Walter Fewkes for his work on the U.S. Southwest pottery, and knew of some of his work casually--I did not know about his work with the phonograph until I bumped into this article in Nature for 1890. Evidently, Fewkes' work, "On the Use if the Edison Phonograph in the Preservation of the Languages of the American Indians", (in Nature, April 17, 1890, volume 41, #1068, p 560), was among the earliest (if not the earliest) reports on using a phonograph to record Native American songs and rituals. He reports on his use of the relatively new phonograph (14 years old now) to record music, folk tales, language and other aspects of the expressive culture of the Passamaquoddy Indians of Maine--this before heading to the Southwest to make recordings of the Zuni (in 1890) and Zuni (in 1891).
This is interesting no doubt because Fewkes offered the world proof of these societal sounds, an imprimatur on authenticity. This must have exploded or leaked into the rest of teh world like the involvement of photography in reporting the news. It was shown early on, during the U.S. Civil War, that engravings made after photographic images and identified so were believed more so in terms of authenticity than the artists rendering a scene "on the spot". Then of course when Stephen Horgan's halftone process was introduced and began to be widely-employed--at about the same time as this article, in fact--and would begin to replace hand-drawn images in newspapers and journals, and offer a new version of what was deemed "trustworthy" and "authentic"...until of course this new process came into question via photo manipulation and fraud. But for the time being, here in 1890, there was a new sense of the concept of "realism", and I think that this doesn't happen very often.
On the Use of the Edison Phonograph in the Preservation of the Languages of the American Indians.
"THE present state of perfection of the Edison phonograph led me to attempt some experiments with it on our New England Indians as a means of preserving languages which are rapidly becoming extinct I accordingly made a visit to Calais Maine and was able through the kindness of Mrs W Wallace Brown to take upon the phonograph a collection of records illustrating the language folk lore songs and counting out rhymes of the Passamaquoddy Indians. My experiments met with complete success and I was able not only to take the records but also to take them so well that the Indians themselves recognized the voices of other members of the tribe who had spoken the day before. One of the most interesting records which was made was the song of the snake dance sung by Noel Josephs who is recognized by the Passamaquoddies as the best acquainted of all with this song of old time. He is always the leader in the dance and sang it in the same way as at its last celebration I also took upon the same wax cylinder on which the impressions are made his account of the dance including the invitation which precedes the ceremony. In addition to the song of the snake dance I obtained on the phonograph an interesting trade song and a Mohawk war song which is very old. Several other songs were recorded. Many very interesting old folk tales were also taken In some of these there occur ancient songs with archaic words imitation of the voices of animals old and young. An ordinary conversation between two Indians and a counting out rhyme are among the records made I found the schedules of the United States Bureau of Ethnology of great value in my work and adopted the method of giving Passamaquoddy and English words consecutively on the cylinders. The records were all numbered and the announcement of the subject made on each in English Some of the stories filled several cylinders but there was little difficulty in making the changes necessary to pass from one to the other and the Indians after some practice were able to make good records in the instrument. Thirty six cylinders were taken in all. One apiece is sufficient for most of the songs and for many of the short stories. The longest story taken was a folk tale which occupies nine cylinders about Podump and Pook jin Squiss the Black Cat and the Toad Woman which has never been published. In a detailed report of my work with the phonograph in preserving the Passamaquoddy language I hope to give a translation of this interesting story." [Source: Google Books. I do own the original of this paper, should anyone want to purchase it...]