Craig Russell's book makes important contributions to the study of European music as it was brought to, implemented in, and shaped by the mission communities of Alta California. This field of inquiry by its nature questions received notions of musical historiography, especially as it pertains to the relationship of documentary and ethnographic evidence. Documents are sparse at best for much of this music, and those that survive represent the musical traditions of the Spanish colonizers. In disciplinary terms, this translates into an interrogation of the relationship between musicology and ethnomusicology.
The authors, each representing one of these two fields, present a dialogue between the text under review and other existing work on California mission music and on the ethics and epistemology of postcolonial musicology. Further questions are duly raised about how Russell handles the great complexity of the mission situation, as regards colonial power relations, the applicability (or lack thereof) of Eurocentric historicity, and the delicate matter of representing the viewpoint of the California Indians involved in musical negotiations of culture under the mission system.