Prairie Dawn

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Text:

 

A crimson fire that vanquishes the stars;
A pungent odor from the dusty sage;
A sudden stirring of the huddled herds;
A breaking of the distant table-lands
Through purple mists ascending, and the flare
Of water ditches silver in the light;
A swift, bright lance hurled low across the world;
A sudden sickness for the hills of home.    

- Willa Cather 

Program Notes:

    Willa Cather's Prairie Dawn caught me by surprise the more I read it. Interpreting it first as simply a painted picture of a Nebraska sunrise, etchings of nostalgia burst forth as I began composing the music. Perhaps my mind comprehended words like "pungent," "stirring," or "lance" as sharp or potent. Angry, even. I felt shades of frustrated homesickness rooted in the otherwise straightforward text.

     When reminiscing old memories of home, my mind tends to repeat or "replay" specific moments within a single image. With nostalgia, there's often a sense of pain involved. My mind becomes focused on the fact that I can't relive good memories; gone forever and unable to return. It's through this sensation upon reading Cather's text as to why I included whispers, sprechstimme, and even prolonged moments of silence. Recalling a beautiful memory can be both a moment of joy and sorrow. A juxtaposition of pleasure and frustration.

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Score

Recording

Premiered by Megan Ihnen at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI