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Nakai Interview for NMAI Classical Native programming

Kara Briggs interview with R. Carlos Nakai
NMAI Classical Native programming
 Is classical music relevant for Native Americans, and how do you see it evolving with Native artists and composers 

The ambiguous, non-specific Eurocentric term "classical" refers to music that conforms to
certain established standards of form, complexity and musical literacy as exemplified in the
western European discipline of theory and practice.  Since the 1700's, the dissolution and
dislocation of traditional tribal communities by colonial expansionism and federal policies
enforced the disruption and loss of many forms of traditionally accepted material culture, social
integration, rites-of-passage and the continuance of the long shadow of our mythic histories,
traditions, and philosophies.  Through the "reservation and boarding school period" the mid-
1970's emergent social programs sought to revitalize the traditions of indigenous AmerInd
culture.  Consequently, the "classical native" movement is a first attempt by Native Americans to
revitalize what remains of the old culture and to distinguish the extant cultural voice of ancestral
traditions and the influences of contemporary music within the purview of a Native composer.   

How do you experience the Native voice or Native tradition in classical music 

The inclusive ingenuity of a composer or arranger who applies the usual practices of theory and
practice while acknowledging the traditional context of ceremonial, social, spiritual or personal
tribal vocal music expression is in keeping with present-day literacy of living in a contemporary
multicultural world.   The influence of societal change agents will enlarge upon and encourage
opportunities in expression of newly inspired and contemporary innovations by Native musicians
to speak with their own voice in all ventures of contemporary music.  

On your website you list symphonies you've performed with, how do you as a performer
playing a traditional instrument bridge with a symphony, and its European traditions?  

Simply in performing pieces composed for the Native American flute that successfully meld an
understanding of disparate music traditions while accommodating the technical and physical
demands and limitations of both.   

Are we seeing an expansion of the definition of what is Native American music
now notably
with Native who are engaged in classical music?

Yes, active positive participation by Natives engaged in "classical" music, be it derived from
one's own extensive historical traditional resources, or that obtained by study and experience
within the modus of the European discipline of theory and practice, is inevitable in the future-
oriented mobility of any culture and its traditions.  In an ever-changing world with the influence
of others through comparative and exemplary intercultural communication, philosophies and
education, a Native composer will learn to integrate him or herself into the world as it exists and
to use the varied me'lange of influences to aspire and build their own singular life experience
into the future, notably in the language of music.  

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