SAMPLE PAGE (hand notation in ink manuscript)
from the score "Guardians of the Grand Canyon"
4th of JULY, 2000 -- Most likely the first time in the history of classical music where a Native American ritual dance has been successfully "scored" into a piece of modern chamber music. The Havasupai group, the Guardians of the Grand Canyon, enacted their Ram Dance from within a new musical work created by composer Brent Michael Davids.
GUARDIANS OF THE GRAND CANYON
by Bill Parker
Ferde Grof?'s familiar Grand Canyon Suite, first performed in 1931, is an imaginative, entertaining, and frankly cinematic score drawing mainly on European compositional traditions, with influences from African-American jazz. It is a fine piece of its type, but its descriptive agenda is limited to the physical attributes of the canyon itself. It makes no reference to the living beings who have long inhabited the Grand Canyon environment.
Brent Michael Davids, a Native American composer, offers a musical depiction of the Grand Canyon from an alternative perspective. His view of this natural wonder focuses on the indigenous people who have lived there for centuries, along with the Canyon's characteristic animals and plants-but his vision is expressed through a synthesis of Native and non-Native
traditions that reaches out to embrace a world audience. The work is also designed to create a sense of the vast spaces in the Canyon, and to create the illusion of hearing the music from within its immense walls...
Guardians of the Grand Canyon was commissioned by the American Composers Forum and the National Endowment for the Arts as part of a nationwide project called "Continental Harmony" which comprised numerous musical events throughout the millennial year 2000. Its first performance is on July 4th, 2000, at the Grand Canyon Shrine of the Ages. The composer will be in residence and discuss the work with the audience.
The title is taken from the name of a group of Havasupai dancers whose art and life are incorporated within the piece. The Havasupai people have lived for hundreds of years on the rim or the floor of the Grand Canyon. The composer's own remarks explain more about the music:
"There have been enough pieces written about the Grand Canyon's geography. I felt it was my purpose to let the people of the canyon speak, so I invited the Guardians of the Grand Canyon, a group of Havasupai dancers, to do their Ram Dance within my composition. The Ram Dance was created when four rams were found senselessly slaughtered in the Canyon. The Havasupai knew they needed to do something to both heal themselves of negative infestations, and to encourage the Canyon to heal itself. The Havasupai live in a reciprocal relationship with the Grand Canyon in which both parties are mutually interdependent on one another. It is a life and death reciprocity: The Canyon needs the Havasupai to survive, just as the Havasupai need the Canyon. The importance of this shared existence is the true significance of the Grand Canyon, and is the focus of the work I have created with the Havasupai's help."
"My new work, Guardians of the Grand Canyon, is an actual Havasupai Ram Dance composed into a modern piece of chamber music. The Ram Dance is not "collaged" upon the new work, but actually composed into it, unlike many contemporary pieces which use synthesizers to create collages of Native American songs in a New Age music style."
Guardians of the Grand Canyon is in four sections: 1. Celebration of the Animals; 2. Mourning the Rams; 3. The Awakening; 4. Ram Dance & Return of the Animals. The instrumentation calls for quartz crystal flute, metal flute, wood flute, clay flute and two percussionists.
Brent Michael Davids was featured nationally on NPR's "Morning Edition" program on the day of the premiere, PBS filmed the premiere and the making of the "Guardians of the Grand Canyon" music, as part of the "Continental Harmony" TV program.
Visit Web Site for Sample MP3:
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