Flutopedia - an Encyclopedia for the Native American Flute

Sign up for our Flute Newsletter

 


 
Previous PageUp a levelNext Page
Flutopedia.com

By the Waters of Minnetonka -
Sheet Music for Native American Flute

By the Waters of Minnetonka is Thurlow Lieurance's most well-known composition. Many versions and arrangements were published, and many recordings were released between 1913 and the 1950s.There are uncertainties about the exact date of composition. Different sources give dates of 1911 or 1912 for the first hearing of the Native American melody on which the song is based. Publication was probably in 1913.

According to a typewritten account from the Lieurance Collection at the Special Collections of the Library of the Wichita State University ([Wolff 1996]):

"By the Waters of Minnetonka" was inspired by a Sioux Love Song recorded by Mr. Lieurance in October, 1911, on the Crow Reservation in Montana. The tune was sung by Sitting Eagle, a Sioux. No one knows how old this Sioux Love Song is. It moves on today and into the future. This love song is based upon the following legend:
 
Moon Deer, daughter of the Moon Clan, loved Sun Deer of the Sun Clan. Tribal law forbade marriage between the two clans. It was decreed that daughters of the Moon Clan must marry into the Eagle Clan. The two lovers, in tears, ran away far to the east and north. They came to a beautiful lake called Minnetonka (Minne means water; Tonka means large and round). Their happiness was disturbed because their traditional enemies, the Chippewa, lived on the north shore of this lake. They feared to return home and be separated, and finally in desperation they decided to end it all. The legend states that they disappeared beneath the waves and were no more. The waves moaned a rhythmic sound and the pines crooned their love song.
 
Many moons afterwards the warriors of the Sioux drove the Chippewa north to Lake Superior. One night while they were camped on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, they heard the waters singing a weird melody and, in the moon-path on the waters, two lilies appeared and grew to the skies. The lilies were the spirits of Moon Deer and Sun Deer.
Thurlow Lieurance, 1922

Thurlow Lieurance, 1922 More information

Speaking about hearing the Native American melody for the first time, Mr. Lieurance was later quoted as saying:

That night marked an epoch in my life, opened to me a new world. What work I have since done has been due chiefly to that song. Thousands of people have heard it, clothed with the harmonizing which our ears demand; it is lying upon music Tables all over the land, has been sung by many of the world's famous singers, including Schuman-Heink, Julia Culp and Alice Nielson. (Kansas Teacher, 1940)

The notes preceeding the sheet music published by Theodore Presser Co. in 1914 (song number 17550 - [Lieurance 1914]) provide some overlapping and some additional information:

Two lovers of the Sun and Moon clans of the Sioux Indians, loving against tribal law, fled to escape torture, and let themselves sink together into the waters of the lonely Northern Lake. The silver ripples, it is told, mourn above them, and the winds bear the cry afar. But in the song they will arise from the depths of the lake for you; you will hear the steady and regular beat of their paddles and see the diamond-spray drip off in the moonlight as they pass, once again, in their ghost-canoe.

A violin typifies the wind, if you choose, echoes the soft harmonies of the accompaniment which rocks to and fro on harp chords, between the major key and its relative minor, in and out of that singular domain musicians know as the “added Sixth” chord and its derivatives.

 

Transcription and Performance Notes

I've done two arrangements for the Native American flute, below.

The first is based on the original melody transcribed by Lieurance. This melody stretches the range of the Native American flute a bit beyond what may be comfortable. It also uses the major second note that requires half-holing on pentatonic minor flutes.

The second arrangement avoids these issues by a few modificiations to the melody that (I hope) are in keeping with the overall spirit and feeling (and chord structure) of the song.

Sheet Music - Original Melody - Six-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Original Melody - six-hole Pentatonic Minor

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Original Melody - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning - Page 1 Larger image

 

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Original Melody - six-hole Pentatonic Minor

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Original Melody - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning - Page 2 Larger image

Sheet Music - Original Melody - Five-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Original Melody - five-hole Pentatonic Minor

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Original Melody - Five-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning - Page 1 Larger image

 

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Original Melody - five-hole Pentatonic Minor

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Original Melody - Five-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning - Page 2 Larger image


Sheet Music - Modified Melody - Six-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Modified Melody - six-hole Pentatonic Minor

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Modified Melody - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning - Page 1 Larger image

 

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Modified Melody - six-hole Pentatonic Minor

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Modified Melody - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning - Page 2 Larger image

Sheet Music - Modified Melody - Five-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Modified Melody - five-hole Pentatonic Minor

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Modified Melody - Five-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning - Page 1 Larger image

 

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Modified Melody - five-hole Pentatonic Minor

By the Shores of Minnetonka - Modified Melody - Five-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning - Page 2 Larger image

 
Previous PageUp a levelNext Page