Cadman, Charles Wakefield

Cadman, Charles Wakefield

Cadman, Charles Wakefield, 1881-1946, American composer, b. Johnstown, Pa. Although he is known to the public principally for two songs—From the Land of the Sky-blue Water, based on Native American themes, and At Dawning—he composed operas, such as Shanewis (1918), The Sunset Trail (1922), and, the most successful of these, A Witch of Salem (1926). He also wrote orchestral and piano music.
Charles Wakefield Cadman (December 24, 1881 - December 30, 1946) was an American composer.

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 training. He was a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity.

In 1908 Cadman was apointed the music editor and critic of the Pittsburgh Dispatch.

He was greatly influenced by American Indian music and went so far as to travel to Nebraska to make cylinder recordings of tribal melodies for the Smithsonian Institute. He lived with the Omaha and Winnebago tribes and learned to play their instruments and later was able to adapt it in the form of 19th century romantic music. He wrote several articles on Indian music and 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 made it difficult for his works to be judged on their own merits.

His early works enjoyed little success until the famous soprano Lillian Nordica sang one of his Indian songs, "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters". Another Indian song which became well-known in the 1920s was "At Dawning".

Cadman eventually moved to Los Angeles where he helped to found, and often was 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 composers. 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. There, he tried to introduce elements of Ragtime music into the classical music format thus anticipating Gershwin, Stravinsky, and Milhaud, among others. It was his Piano Trio, Op. 56, composed in 1913, that drew the critics' attention and praise to what he was trying to do.

The Pageant of Colorado, a historical pageant with music composed by Cadman, was produced in Denver, Colorado in May 1927 under the direction of dramatist and playwright Percy Jewett Burrell.

Selected works

Operas & operettas

  • The Land of the Misty Waters (1912)
  • Shanewis or The Robin Woman (1918)
  • The Garden of Mystery (1925)
  • Lelawala (1926)
  • A Witch of Salem (1926)
  • The Belle of Havana (1928)
  • South of Sonora (1932)
  • Ramala (undated)Other vocal works

300 Songs including Four American Indian Songs, At Dawning, From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water, Sayonara, and The Willow Wind.Orchestral

  • Thunderbird Suite (1914)
  • 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 (1939)
  • Aurora Borealis (1944)
  • A Mad Empress Remembers for solo cello & orchestra (1944)Chamber music
  • String Quartet (1917)
  • Piano Trio in D Major, Op.56 (1913)
  • Sonata for Violin & Piano (1937)
  • Piano Quintet in g minor (1937)
  • A Mad Empress Remembers for cello & piano (1944)Organ music
  • Meditation: in D flat (1904)
  • Legend: in F, op. 30, no. 1 (1906)
  • Caprice in G, op. 30, no. 2 (1906)


  • The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, Ed. S. Sadie, Macmillan, London 1980
  • The Chamber Music Journal ISSN 1535 1726, Vol.XIII No.1, Riverwoods, Illinois 2002 (Permission to quote and copy has been granted under the GNU License. Some of this information has already appeared elsewhere including but not limited to the website of Edition Silvertrust)

External links

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