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Arnold's Drums The following is an interview transcription from the 1998 Smithsonian Folklife Festival with participant Arnold Herrera, a Cochiti Pueblo drum maker and teacher. Interview by Anthony [last name unknown], presenter and interpreter at the Festival.*
The Rio Grande
Drum Making amoung the Cochiti Pueblo
A: The late Santiago "Jim" Herrera, was Arnold’s father, teacher, mentor. Arnold worked alongside his dad learning the intricate and intimate knowledge of Herrera’s elders. After his father’s death, Arnold was left to fill numerous orders that his father had not been able to complete due to illness. Since that time, Arnold has become an accomplished drum maker and silversmith in his own right. He is now passing on this extensive art knowledge to his three sons, Tim, Carlos, and Thomas. They are learning and making their own styles of jewelry as well as exploring other forms of self-expression in wood, clay, metal, and on paper. Arnold and his sons travel around the state of New Mexico and the country to share their crafts at festivals, fairs, and markets. They also perform traditional dances and sing their own musical compositions. Visitors from all across the country and around the world have been encouraging interactive participation. Together they present workshops to disabled students and children and other people. They present positive alternatives that are available to young people. Arnold is often called upon to help school teachers acquire a greater cultural sensitivity and awareness for their native student population. At this time, I want to introduce Arnold Herrera.

A: Okay, we’ll start with the log here on this bench. He is going to demonstrate how to shave a log and prepare it or the drum. But, you start with the log and then. . . .

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AH: Clean the outside, and chisel the inside so it is nice and clean--no slivers or no sinew or whatever left on the rawhide. And I will demonstrate now some of the steps of processing involved. It’s interesting because you get to learn about the different grains in wood. You learn about cattle, the different breeds. Each kind of skin will give you a different kind of sound. And you know when it is going to be coming from a black angus, a hertford or a charlain-- each one them has their own characteristic.

When we make drums we benefit from some of the tools my dad made. In 1971, my dad died. I was thrown right in the middle of the whole process because when my dad passed away, he had backlogs of orders. But here are some of the tools. . . .

[Arnold demonstrates how to shave the log]

A: He is going to demonstrate how to process Aspen wood in New Mexico. The other wood he uses is cottonwood. This comes from an old scythe.

AH: My dad had an accident when I was quite young. He learned through the process of elimination of what kind of tools to use. Some of you who may be carpenters or work with wood, you would appreciate these tools, which are really fine, better than any you can buy in a market--contrary to tools that are made nowadays. They want you to buy one, throw it away, and then buy another one. These tools have been in the family for a good sixty years right now. I touch them up maybe once a year.
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I shave off and I see the wood exposed. When I like a certain area, I’ll cut it. I’ll shape it. Shape has to be there because when the lacing is put on the wood, it has to stay real close to the wood. Otherwise it is going to vibrate. The sound waves are so powerful, that if there is anything loose within the instrument, or close by like a window, it is going to vibrate. It’s got to be cleaned really nice on the outside and the inside, and also it has got to be shaped well. So when you hit, you got that nice clean sound.

* transcription edited for clarity

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