Chickasaw Composer on the Ethos of Traditional Music

Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate uses traditional Native American tunes as raw material, fusing them with old-fashioned classical forms like the fugue and the sonata.

In an interview with New Music Box, Tate discusses his approach to composition and his place in the history of both Chickasaw tradition and Western classical music.

Tate points out that, while he may be unique as a composer, the basic idea of synthesizing Native American culture with non-indigenous influences is hardly new. “The two things that Indians are known for the most are beadwork and horses, neither of which is originally from here.”

Similarly, Tate explains how his compositions fit into the tradition of several hundred years of classical music, which began, as he explains it, “with monks in a Catholic church…These guys were singing traditional tunes. I equate that with the traditional music of my tribe: It’s the old music of a culture, a certain group of people with a standard set of tunes and music that was used for the mass and different occasions and that was it…Then what happened was they started writing it down. That was the birth of what we call classical music…Now that you’ve got it down on paper, you can actually do what is so unique to classical music and that is the idea of abstracting your own music…So I don’t see it as assimilating Western music. I see it as participating in this way of classical abstraction…Once you start to reinterpret it, it’s not the same music. But like I said, I think you try to, at least I do, keep this ethos of the traditional music in the final product.”

Audio excerpts of many of Tate’s compositions are available on his website.

Source: New Music Box

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.