Jaime de Angulo

Jaime de Angulo

Works in the repertoire

Achumawi Distant Voices | after Jaime de Angulo | 2024

Jaime de Angulo (1887-1950) was an American novelist, ethnomusicologist and linguist of Franco-Spanish origin.

Born in Paris, he left for California to become a cowboy, arriving in San Francisco in 1906, the year of the famous earthquake. He led an adventurous life as a ranch hand, doctor and psychologist. In the 1920s and 1930s, with his wife Nancy Freeland, he went to live with several Amerindian tribes in north-eastern California, in particular the Achumawi and Pit River peoples, in order to study their cultures and ways of life. He studied the songs and grammar of the native languages. A pioneer in ethnomusicology, he has made numerous recordings of Achumawi songs and rituals. He worked alongside other leading figures in the burgeoning field of North American ethnology, such as Franz Boas and Alfred Kroeber, with the foundation Boas’s Committee on American Native Languages.

Towards the end of his life, affected by the car accident that cost his son his life in 1933, De Angulo led a secluded life on an isolated Californian ranch in Big Sur. He wrote several books, including coyote tales, accounts of the beginnings of the world and the adventures of animal gods gathered from the tribes where he had lived. Because of these epics, Ezra Pound nicknamed him “the American Ovid”. He inspired the work of poets William Carlos Williams and Jack Spicer, and appeared in the works of Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller. He was also a friend of experimental composers Henry Cowell and Harry Partch. Jaime de Angulo’s work was rediscovered and republished in the 2000s, notably his magnificent book Indians in Overalls, which met with great success.

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