Charles 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.
Charles Cadman American composer 1881 -1946
Charles Cadman 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 training. He was named a national honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity in 1915.
In 1908 Charles Cadman was appointed the music editor and critic of the Pittsburgh Dispatch.He was greatly influenced by American Indian music and went to Nebraska to make cylinder recordings of tribal melodies for the Smithsonian Institution. He lived with the Omaha and Winnebago tribes on their reservations, learning to play their instruments. He used elements of traditional music in the form of his compositions of 19th-century romantic music.
Publishing several articles on American Indian music, Charles Cadman was regarded as one of the foremost experts on the subject. He toured both the States and Europe giving his then-celebrated ”Indian Talk”. But his involvement with the so-called Indianist movement in American music contributed to some critics failing to judge his works on their own merits.
Charles Cadman’s early works enjoyed little success until the famous soprano Lillian Nordica sang his ”From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water,” an Indian-influenced song. Another Indian-influenced song which became well known in the 1920s was ”At Dawning”.
Charles Cadman eventually moved to Los Angeles. He helped to found and often performed as a soloist with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He wrote the scores for several films, including The Sky Hawk, Captain of the Guard, Women Everywhere, and Harmony at Home. Along with Dmitri Tiomkin, he was considered one of Hollywood’s top film composers.
But Charles 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.
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 under the direction of dramatist and playwrightPercy Jewett Burrell, a fraternity colleague of Cadman.
Charles Cadman´s opera The Sunset Trail (1922) was part of the touring repertoire of Vladimir Rosing’s American Opera Company. He also composed music for Da O Ma, an opera based on Omaha traditions, with a libretto written by Nelle Richmond Eberhart and Francis La Flesche, an Omaha ethnologist with the Smithsonian.
- Operas and operettas
- The Land of the Misty Waters or Da O Ma (1912)
- Shanewis or The Robin Woman (1918)
- The Garden of Mystery (1925, after Rappaccini’s Daughter)
- The Ghost of Lollypop Bay (1926)
- Lelawala (1926)
- A Witch of Salem (1926)
- The Belle of Havana (1928)
- South of Sonora (1932)
- The Willow Tree, Radio Opera (1932)
- Ramala, revision of The Land of the Misty Waters (unperformed)
- American Indian art songs
- Four American Indian Songs, Op. 57; words by Nelle Richmond Eberhart; Edwin H. Morris publisher, 1914
- The Place of Breaking Light
- From the Long Room of the Sea
- Ho, Ye Warriors on the Warpath
- The Thunderbirds Come from the Cedars
- The Doe-Skinned Blanket; words by Cecil Fanning; Edwin H. Morris publisher, 1919
- From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water, Op. 45 No. 1; words by Nelle Richmond Eberhart; White-Smith Music Publishing Co., 1909
- Her Shadow (Ojibway Canoe Song); words by Frederick R. Burton; Edwin H. Morris publisher, 1918
- He Who Moves in the Dew; words by Nelle Richmond Eberhart; Edwin H. Morris publisher, 1916
- I Found Him on the Mesa; words by Nelle Richmond Eberhart; Edwin H. Morris publisher, 1913
- The New Trail (Indian Duet); words by Nelle Richmond Eberhart; Edwin H. Morris publisher, 1928
- Other art songs
300 total songs, including:
- At Dawning Op.29.1 (1906)
- It Is Morning Again (unknown author), published by G. Schirmer
- Joy (unknown author), published by G. Schirmer
- The Moon Behind the Cottonwood words by Nelle Richmond Eberhart, published by G. Schirmer
- A Moonlight Song (unknown author), published by G. Schirmer
- Welcome! Sweet Wind (unknown author), published by G. Schirmer
- The Willow Wind
- Could Roses Speak Op.26.1 (1906)
- Thunderbird Suite (1914)
- The Feather of the Dawn (1923)
- To a Vanishing Race (1925)
- Oriental Rhapsody (1929)
- Dark Dancers of Mardi Gras (1933)
- Trail Pictures Suite (1934)
- American Suite (1936)
- Suite on American Folksongs (1937)
- Pennsylvania Symphony in e minor (1939)
- Aurora Borealis (1944)
- A Mad Empress Remembers for solo cello and orchestra (1944)
- Chamber music
- String Quartet (1917)
- To a Vanishing Race for 2 violins, viola, cello and double bass (published 1917)
- Piano Trio in D major, Op. 56 (1913)
- Sonata for violin and piano (1937)
- Piano Quintet in g minor (1937)
- A Mad Empress Remembers for cello and piano (1944)
- Organ music
- Meditation in D♭
- Legend in F, Op. 30 No. 1 (1906)
- Caprice in G, Op. 30 No. 2 (1906)