Burlin, Natalie Curtis (1875–1921)

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Burlin, Natalie Curtis (1875–1921)

American musicologist and student of Native American and African-American music. Born Natalie Curtis in New York City on April 26, 1875; died in Paris, France, on October 23, 1921; attended the National Conservatory of Music, New York; married Paul Burlin (a painter), July 1917.

Natalie Burlin considered a career as a concert pianist before turning her attention to the study of Native American music. She first became fascinated with the customs and lore of the Arizona Native Americans on a trip there in 1900. Visiting the villages and camps of the Zuñi, Hopi, and other tribes, she recorded their songs, poetry, and stories. In 1907, Burlin published a major work entitled The Indians' Book, which contained music and lore from 18 tribes, primarily Southwestern but also from as far away as Maine and British Columbia. The work enjoyed two later editions and remains a major source book for students and scholars.

Also interested in the performance and preservation of African-American music, Burlin joined David Mannes in 1911 to organize the Music School Settlement for Colored People in New York City. She was also instrumental in arranging the first concert of African-American music performed by black performers at Carnegie Hall, in March 1914. Burlin produced a number of volumes of African-American music, including the four-volume Hampton Series Negro Folk-Songs (1918–1919), the result of a period of study at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, and Songs and Tales from the Dark Continent (1920). Natalie Burlin was killed by an automobile while in Paris to address a congress of art historians.

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