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Prairie Winds

"There's no place you can go on the prairie that you don't hear the white noise of the wind, steady and rough as surf curling along a nonexistent shore."
 - Diane Ackerman
"A cold wind blew on the prairie on the day the last buffalo fell. A death wind for my people"
 - Sitting Bull

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"We look at prairie and we see a great emptiness, a void that staggers the psyche and leaves much too much room for a mind to wander"
 - Randy Winter
"I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures, and where everything drew a free breath"
 - Ten Bears, Comanche war chief
"Whatever else prairie is—grass, sky, wind—it is most of all a paradigm of infinity, a clearing full of many things except boundaries, and its power comes from its apparent limitlessness; there is no such thing as a small prairie any more than there is a little ocean, and the consequence of both is this challenge.."
 - William Least Heat-Moon

Abandoned House - Prairie
Abandoned House - Prairie

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Prairie Winds

There’s an inherent poignant sadness to the U.S. prairies. Its an endless monotony to some while to others its a landscape of strangely seductive beauty. The Great Plains have a fascinating history - its prairie lands have always been misjudged and misunderstood. This composition tries to capture that melancholy as well as its vastness and elusive grandeur.

History
The prairie can be a harsh environment. Before the European “invasion”, enormous herds of buffalo roamed the landscape and sustained the Native Americans.

Buffalo Herd
Buffalo Herd

Once the frontier was criss-crossed with an increasing number of covered wagon trains and the transcontinental railroads were built, the buffalo was nearly exterminated! At this point in time, pioneering homesteaders tried desperately to eke out a meager existence as farmers.

The Dust Bowl
During the 1930s, a lengthy and severe drought caused massive dust storms and forced tens of thousands of poverty-stricken families to abandon their farms. Between 1930 and 1940, approximately 3.5 million people moved out of the Plains causing one of the largest migrations in American history.

Dustbowl
Dustbowl

The Heartland
Now of course the Great Plains are a source of American pride and patriotism. “Amber waves of grain” and the never-ending open road across miles and miles of corn fields ironically serve as metaphors for freedom and the restless American spirit.

Endless Corn Fields
Endless Corn Fields

Music
The soundscape opens with the sound of wind and a buffalo stampede in the distance. A plaintive melody is heard on the Native American flute slowly giving way to a trombone chorale. A “flute” quartet (Native American flute accompanied by recorders) follows.

Flutes
Flutes

Languid and peaceful, evocative of the prairie’s vast flat emptiness, both the trombone and the Native American flute take solos in the improv section.

After the solo section, the plaintive melody returns and the motif is passed amongst the trombones and flutes in a more complex antiphonal setting. Lastly... the relentless winds finish the piece, a reminder of the stark and harshness of the prairie winters.

Diane Ackerman
Diane Ackerman
Diane Ackerman
Diane Ackerman (born 1948) is an American poet, essayist, and naturalist known for her wide-ranging curiosity and poetic explorations of the natural world. Diane Ackerman
Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull was a Lakota leader who led his people during years of resistance to United States government policies. When Native Americans were threatened by the United States, numerous members from various Sioux bands and other tribes came to Sitting Bull's camp. His reputation for "strong medicine" developed as he continued to evade the European Americans. In 1890, he was shot and killed by Indian agency police on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation during an attempt to arrest him. Sitting Bull