A quick note — An article I authored, "Cultural Appropriation in Classical Music" (link) was just published on New Music Box, the online publication of New Music USA (New York City). In conjunction with the article, there is one time when I performed Inuit throat singing, but using my quartz flute. In the article I refer to a photo of this performance that does not appear in the article itself, so here it is! —BMD
I've posted the other images from the article below.
In the summer of 2019, the Grand Canyon Music Festival reprised Brent Michael Davids' commemorative work GUARDIANS OF THE GRAND CANYON at the national park's south rim. Scored for Quartz Flute, Metal Flute, Clay Flute, Wood Flute, Percussion, and Havasupai Ram Dancers. This is a 6-min cross section of the 22-min performance.
To purchase the limited special edition of the full GOTGC printed score—the 100th Anniversary of the Grand Canyon National Park Edition (available until gone)—please visit:
Special Thanks to:
• Grand Canyon Music Festival
• National Park Service
• Grand Canyon National Park Centennial
• Grand Canyon Conservancy
• American Composers Forum’s Continental Harmony Project
• National Endowment for the Arts
And Thank You to:
• Matthew Putesoy & the Havasupai
Guardians of the Grand Canyon (dancers and singers)
• Brent Michael Davids (quartz flute)
• Clare Hoffman (metal flute)
• Vince Redhouse (wood flute)
• Brian Sanders (clay flute)
• Bryan Stone (percussion)
• Owen Davis (percussion)
• Ann Millikan (video)
GUARDIANS OF THE GRAND CANYON is an actual Havasupai Ram Dance composed into a modern piece of chamber music. The title is taken from the name of a group of Havasupai dancers whose art and life are incorporated within the piece. The Havasupai have lived for hundreds of years on the rim or floor of the Grand Canyon. Unlike Ferde Grofe's familiar "Grand Canyon Suite" whose descriptive agenda is limited to the canyon's physical attributes, Davids' GUARDIANS OF THE GRAND CANYON offers an alternative perspective. Davids' view of this natural wonder focuses on the indigenous people who have lived there for centuries. Characteristic of his approach, a rare ceremonial Havasupai Ram Dance is actually composed into the concert work. Additionally is also designed to create an illusion of hearing the music from within the vast spaces of the Grand Canyon.
The work was commissioned by the American Composers Forum and the National Endowment for the Arts as part of a nationwide project called "Continental Harmony," was premiered at Grand Canyon Music Festival on the south rim of the Grand Canyon (2000), was reprised for the 100th anniversary of the National Park (2019), and was featured on the "Continental Harmony" PBS-TV program (2001).
Copyright ©2000 ©2019, Brent Michael Davids. All Rights Reserved.
ANNOUNCING—The orchestral score & parts for the film IROQUOIS CREATION STORY are now available for screening in the concert hall for any orchestra wishing to perform it! I composed and produced the original music score at Doodlebug Music Studio in 2015. Any ensembles or conductors interested in having a look at the score, please contact me at my site (www.filmcomposer.us) for a perusal PDF.
The work features Iroquois singers (recorded), and the composer on Native American flute (live). This short sample was performed by the Civic Symphony of Green Bay in the Meyer Theater in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on 9 October 2018.
About the film: A 17 minute film combining animation and dance to tell the Creation Story of the Iroquois people. Producer: J Peter Jemison. Director: Cat Ashworth. Animation: Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Film and Animation. Choreographer: Garth Fagan. Narration: Joanne Shenandoah. Singers: Bill Crouse, Alan Dowdy, G. Peter Jemison, and Joanne Shenandoah.
Music is Copyright ©2015 by Brent Michael Davids. Rights Reserved.
Human-Caused Climate Crisis
Anthropogenic Climate Change is the threat of our lifetime, and the threat of people-caused global warming (the greenhouse effect) is ushering in the world’s sixth mass extinction event, the Anthropocene extinction. There are no doubts that the crisis we now face is caused by “significant human influence on climate.”
From recent reports, we may only have 11 years — or less — to get our act together, or perish. The reality is the youth know and are insisting our leaders act on behalf of future generations.
The extensive use of a fossil fuel is the central culprit to our own demise. Though seldom mentioned in the media, our worst polluter is the US military. But keeping it real, to a much smaller extent, Indian reservations are also contributors. Often referred to as “natural gas,” fossil fuel on my particular Indian reservation is called “LP Gas,” an acronym for “liquid petroleum.” Whatever it’s called, the burning of fossil fuel is harming our planet and will soon kill us all, unless we take collective action — fast.
Several Tribal communities are pulling out all the stops to go solar, such as the community of Standing Rock. They are doing so, not to make a buck but as an effort to preserve life on the planet, and to be role models for other nation states. However, it is increasingly apparent that renewable energy is the future of commerce in this country as well, and also within Indian country.
In an effort to try my hand at solar, I’ve installed a solar voltaic system that runs my music studio and home. I thought I was energy conscious before, but now that I’m running 100% off the sun’s energy my perception has changed. When I see the sun shining, I now think of the energy my system is creating, and I have changed my habits accordingly. For example, I now shower exclusively in daytime hours because the highest drain of electricity is my water heater; if the tank must re-heat water, I want that to occur when the sun is shining. I turn off lights in rooms, and turn off appliances. I have always-on appliances plugged into power strips that I can turn off when not in use. When I plug something into an electric outlet, I think about where that energy is being made, and I’m careful not to waste it.
My voltaic system also has battery backup, and I have designated a percentage of the battery for everyday use and another percentage for emergency use. I’ve experimented with different settings all year, but currently have it set at 40% daily and 60% emergency. With these settings, I recharge 40% of the battery each day, and when the sun starts to set, my building starts drawing power from the battery instead of the solar panels. My system is tied to the electric grid, so sometimes I do draw from the grid as well, but at other times I also sell my excess electricity to the grid (I have a meter that flows forward and backward). At times, I have checked my system’s indicator display well after midnight, and most nights I am still drawing power from the battery rather than the grid.
Recently, my reservation experienced an extended power outage lasting a full 24-hour day, give or take. Concerned about the summer heat and air conditioners not working, I heard calls to care for our elders. Unpowered fridges and freezers were thawing and melting foods, and folks were concerned about spoiled produce and whole meals going bad. It is clear that energy on the reservation is a safety concern, and a community one. When the grid does down, our reservation suffers.
Above left and right shows my system's response to the recent power outage on my reservation; on the left, power flows from the battery at night, and on the right, power flows (mostly) from the solar panels in daytime. The upper right corner shows a palm tree icon, meaning that my system is "islanding" and not grid connected; notice that the lower right corner is blank where normally a grid icon would be displayed indicating that the grid connection is absent.
To Go Solar?
To explain, my reservation is grid-tied, and here in Wisconsin that means consuming electricity that is largely generated by burning fossil fuel, predominantly coal. We are also somewhat enslaved to the grid system, rather than producing our own clean power. If we had solar panels mounted in several of the sunny open areas of the reservation, we could be producing our own energy and supplying it to the community. For example, during the recent outage and for the entire outage, I had electric lights, a cold fridge and air conditioning, all powered from the solar panels (in daylight) and from the 60% reserve on my backup battery (in darkness).
For my reservation, the technology is available, but similar to many other places the political will hasn’t gotten us there yet. Whether the causes of that apathy are climate deniers on the tribal council, or a general fear the initial solar startup cost might hurt the tribe, I’m not sure. But I do know that whatever the cost might be — whatever the cost — it’s good policy to put life ahead of death, renewable energy ahead of toxic energy, and longterm care of the next generations ahead of the short-term profits of the current one. As a tribe, we donated money and logs to Standing Rock in support of the Water Protectors fighting the pipeline, but continue buying and burning fossil fuel ourselves. We continue to own and maintain a liquid petroleum business, some insisting it is "good business" and mostly ignoring the immediacy of the climate danger.
What’s my best advice to my own tribal nation? Please, start paying attention to our carbon footprint, think about where our electricity comes from, actually calculate what greenhouse gases we’re sending into the atmosphere, and start working for a carbon-free future. We could be positive role models for other tribal nations, like the community of Standing Rock is doing by going solar. We could mitigate power outages, or become untethered to the grid all together. We are a sovereign nation, so how about we invest in our own production of renewable, sustainable, clean energy? Why not?! I seriously ask — why not?!
GUARDIANS OF THE GRAND CANYON
Date: June 22, 6:30 PM (just before sunset).
Venue: Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center Plaza.
MUSIC PERFORMANCE—In partnership with the annual Grand Canyon Star Party, the Grand Canyon Music Festival kicks-off Grand Canyon National Park Centennial Celebrations with a sunset performance of Brent Michael Davids’s Guardians of the Grand Canyon outside the South Rim Visitor's Center. Due to the rarity of this work and the uniqueness of the performers involved, the music has not been performed in nearly twenty years—Don't Miss it!
The musical work features the Havasupai "Guardians of the Canyon" (dancers & singers), Brent Michael Davids (quartz flute), Clare Hoffman (metal flute), Vince Redhouse (wood flute), a performer on clay flute, plus two percussionists.
STAR PARTY—Following the performance, the annual Star Party begins (Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association) when amateur astronomers from across the country offer free nightly astronomy programs and telescope viewing. Also featured will be Dr. John Barentine of International Dark Sky Association!
This past year, students from Seymour High School in Wisconsin, have been part of a CANOE program (Composer Apprentice National Outreach Endeavor) to learn written composition. And "Seymour Composers" equals "See More Composers!"
I'm proud to say that the students this year were successful in composing for full orchestra—not an easy task! Each composer's work was performed and recorded by the Civic Symphony of Green Bay, with Seong-Kyung Graham conducting, and the Seymour band director (who also help schedule the student composition lessons) created videos from the student recordings that I am now able to share (with composer permission).
Congratulations to the student composers!
“THE MINICK” by Trinity Estrada
Trinity Estrada “The Minick”
Copyright ©2019 Trinity Estrada.
All Rights Reserved.
BRENT MICHAEL DAVIDS
Seymour H.S. Band Director
CIVIC SYMPHONY OF GREEN BAY
“EPIPHANY” by Hannah Gardner
Hannah Gardner “Epiphany”
Copyright ©2019 Hannah Gardner.
All Rights Reserved.
BRENT MICHAEL DAVIDS
Seymour H.S. Band Director
CIVIC SYMPHONY OF GREEN BAY
The 2019 student composer program was supported in part
by a grant from the Oneida Nation Arts Program,
with additional support from the Civic Symphony of Green Bay, Seymour High School and Brent Michael Davids.
Announcing—I’ve been selected as an Artist in Residence for the month of February at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. During my stay, I will be composing a new work for chorus and small handheld instruments to accompany a Patricia Michaels’ runway fashion show; the new work will be a musical score for her runway show. Also, I will continue composing Requiem For America, my large requiem project for 4 operatic soloists, s.a.t.b. chorus, Native American singers, Native American flute, full orchestra and choreography. If you are in the vicinity of Santa Fe, please stop by for a visit!
It is my pleasure to announce that the three founding directors of the Lenape Center in Manhattan—Joe Baker (Executive Director), Hadrien Coumans (Co-Director) and Curtis Zunigha (Co-Director)—have invited a fourth co-director to join Lenape Center, and I have accepted. Together we will make a great team!
The Lenape Center began in 2009, with a mission to continue Lenapehoking, the Lenape homeland, through Lenape arts and culture. The Lenape, the original peoples of Lenapehoking, come from a region encompassing today's New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and part of Connecticut. Today, the Lenape Center is a non-profit organization based in the ancestral Lenape island of Manhattan and has an impressive history of cultural advocacy and artistic excellence.
Together, Joe Baker, Hadrien Coumans, Curtis Zunigha, and now myself, have a combined total of 184 years of experience in art creation, 128 years of experience in development, 97 years of experience in distribution, and 97 years of experience in exhibition. The Lenape Center has been featured in three New York Times articles (2014, 2015, 2017), Huffington Post (2014), Vogue (2015) and The Village Voice (2017), just to name a few.
The Lenape Center has hosted and welcomed numerous Lenape elders into Lenapehoking since our inception, and often partners with other arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Lenape Center has initiated high profile public art and culture projects central to the lives of the Lenape, has encouraged and facilitated place-naming & re-naming of Lenapehoking boundaries and places, and has held many convenings and symposia on the Lenape diaspora.
The Lenape Center has quickly become the go-to organization for anything of cultural and artistic importance to the Lenape in New York City. I am proud to join this outstanding organization in the official capacity of co-director, and it is my honor to serve. — Brent Michael Davids
The Oneida Nation Arts Board has awarded the Civic Symphony of Green Bay (CSGB) a Community Grant, with funds provided by the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.
The award was given to support a new CSGB educational program teaching youth to compose for orchestra. The program was initiated last year with a few student composers writing works for string quartet, but the program was significantly upgraded with this year for students to compose for the entire orchestra. The program is called Composer Apprentice National Outreach Endeavor (CANOE) under the tutelage of me!
Students from Oneida Nation and Seymour High School will study written musical composition this coming year, from beginning ideas to printed orchestral scores. Seong-Kyung Graham, conductor of the orchestra, has expressed support for the students, and the Civic Symphony will perform all the student works in front of live audiences on their next concert season, 2018-19.
Congratulations to Civic Symphony of Green Bay and to all the students now studying the art of composing for the symphony orchestra, from inspiration to notation. Way to go!
Toing and Froing