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Charles Wakefield Cadman

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Charles Wakefield Cadman (December 24, 1881 – December 30, 1946) was an American composer. For 40 years he worked closely with Nelle Richmond Eberhart, who wrote most of the texts to his songs, including Four American Indian Songs, as well as the librettos for his five operas, two of which were based on Indian themes. He composed in a wide variety of genres.
Cadman's musical education, unlike that of most of his American contemporaries, was completely American. Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, he began piano lessons at 13. Eventually, he went to nearby Pittsburgh where he studied harmony, theory, and orchestration with Luigi von Kunits and Emil Paur, then concertmaster and conductor, respectively, of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. This was the sum of his formal training, although he has been said to have been a pupil of Anna Priscilla Risher as well.
By the age of eighteen, he was working as a clerk in a railroad office in Homestead. On the side, he continued writing music. In 1902 he met a neighbor, Nelle Richmond Eberhart, and learned that she was interested in music. She wrote the text and he the music for their first work together, a hymn for which they were paid one and a half dollars. Their collaboration began, and it continued for 40 years.
In 1908 Cadman was appointed as the music editor and critic of the Pittsburgh Dispatch. He was greatly influenced by American Indian music, which he had been studying, especially through the work of ethnologists Alice Fletcher and Francis La Flesche. They had studied the Omaha and recorded their music and stories.
Having published several articles on American Indian music, Cadman became regarded as one of the foremost experts on the subject. In 1908 he began touring to present lectures known as the "Indian Talk", or "Indian Music Tour", accompanied by the performance of Native American music and his own compositions. Tsianina Redfeather (Muscogee/Cherokee), billed as "Princess Redfeather", performed as a singer on some of his tours. Her signature song was Cadman's "From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water". Another such song was "At Dawning", which became widely known in the 1920s. Cadman toured both the US and Europe for 25 years to present this lecture.
Cadman drew from Omaha and Iroquois songs for his Four American Indian Songs, Op. 45, which became his first commercial success in 1909. This was aided by performances of these songs by noted soprano Lillian Nordica, who was on a concert tour. In the summer of 1909 he went to Nebraska to study the music and traditional instruments of the Omaha and Winnebago tribes. He lived with the people on their reservations, learning to play their instruments.
During his trip to the West, he met Francis La Flesche, an Omaha ethnologist who was working with the Smithsonian Institution on studies of the Omaha and Osage. Cadman assisted him in making recordings on wax cylinders of traditional songs. These works are now held by the Library of Congress, and some 60 songs are available online. Cadman drew from La Flesche's recordings and he was interested in his stories collected from these peoples.
They began work that year on an opera; Cadman had already started to pull melodies from three printed collections of Omaha and Pawnee music published by ethnologist Alice Cunningham Fletcher: . The songs were transcribed or harmonized by others.
Cadman and Eberhart worked closely with La Flesche by mail, and he continued to provide Cadman with Omaha melodies for the opera. They were not permitted to use melodies which La Flesche had collected for an as yet unpublished report for the Smithsonian. Together with librettist Nelle Richmond Eberhart, Cadman and La Flesche worked together for about three more years to create an opera based on Omaha stories and music. Cadman made occasional Indian Music Tours to raise money. He moved to Denver in 1911.
Cadman completed the music for Da O Ma (1912) and sought a venue for it, but it was never produced or published. It was rejected by the Boston Opera Company, the White-Smith Music Publishing Company, which had published numerous songs by Cadman; and the Metropolitan Opera. In the course of their work, the team had changed the opera from an Omaha to Sioux setting. Cadman did gain some distribution for this music: selections from the opera were published by White-Smith in 1917 as a piano suite, and by Boosey in 1920 as an orchestral suite.
In 1915 Cadman was named a national honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity.
Cadman and Eberhart began another project with La Flesche, but he withdrew because of differences. They collaborated with Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone, a Muscogee/Cherokee singer who had performed with Cadman on tour. She provided much of the plot for the libretto, based on contemporary Native American issues, for The Robin Woman (Shanewis). The opera was produced by the Metropolitan Opera of New York in 1918, and, unusually, was performed for two concurrent seasons. It was very popular in the 1920s, performed also in Denver and Los Angeles. Redfeather made her opera debut in the lead role in a 1924 performance in Denver, and also sang it in Los Angeles in 1926.
Some scholars believe that Cadman's involvement with the so-called Indianist movement in American music resulted in some critics failing to judge his works on their own merits. While his and similar works were popular in the early 20th century, they have since fallen out of favor.
In the 1920s, Cadman moved to Los Angeles, California. He helped to found the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and often performed there as a solo pianist. His opera Shanewis was performed there in 1926.
He became involved with the film studios, writing the scores for several films. These included The Sky Hawk (1929), and, in 1930: Captain of the Guard, a musical set during the French Revolution; Women Everywhere, and Harmony at Home, all Pre-code films. Along with Russian-American Dmitri Tiomkin, Cadman was considered one of Hollywood's top film composers of the period.
But Cadman first and foremost was a serious composer who wrote for nearly every genre. His chamber music works are generally considered among his best. He introduced elements of ragtime music into the classical music format, anticipating Gershwin, Stravinsky, and Milhaud, among others. His Piano Trio, Op. 56, composed in 1913, drew the critics' attention and praise for his innovations.
His opera The Sunset Trail (1922) was part of the touring repertoire of Vladimir Rosing's American Opera Company.
The Pageant of Colorado, a historical pageant with music composed by Cadman to a libretto by Lillian White Spencer, was produced in Denver, Colorado in May 1927. Dramatist and playwright Percy Jewett Burrell, a fraternity colleague of Cadman, directed the production.
300 total songs, including: