ANNOUNCING—Glad to announce that Requiem For America was partially funded by MAP this cycle, a generous initiative to support as many artists as possible in the pandemic. The proposal supports the composer fee, so I can continue composing the work. Big thanks to MAP fund! For more info, please visit: RequiemForAmerica.com
I recently had a composer discussion with Anna Sutyagina as part of Moving Classics, in print (select the "interview" tab). Check it out!
INDIAN RODEO QUEEN. Commissioned by Houston Grand Opera. Performed by Lyz Jaakola & Brent Michael Davids. Lyrics by Juanita Pahdopony & Brent Michael Davids, Copyright ©2019. All Rights Reserved.
When daylight breaks and dust packs my nose,
A horse is loose, and my burden basket is pushing back.
The earth calls my name, and I brush off my crown.
I’m tacking up my dreams each year; riding is my sweet almanac.
Ro-de-o, the dearest grounds I take to heart. (Sister said)
Don’t you know, climbing on is the easy part.
Under midday sun, tiny mutton busters ride.
The kids and everyone are crazy to ride, ‘cause no one’s immune.
You pullin’ for the cowboy, or pullin’ for the bull?
Hey! Lunch is piping hot, it’s beans and frybread tacos at noon.
Ro-de-o, I laugh and learn to get along. (Momma said)
Don’t you know, when kinfolk are here, we sing a song.
Ro-de-o, it’s days like this I walk on air. (Gramma said)
Don’t you know, we’d rather be here than anywhere.
I am Queen tonight, and my horse is under me.
I twilight ride with my nation’s flag and a beaded crown.
I’m center stage meeting eager family,
The sunset lights me in my finest cowboy gear; it’s my evening gown.
I’m jumping up and down! Don’t you know, Ro-de-o.
Evening stars dance and sparkle in our eyes. Don’t you know.
Milky Way, your cosmic pageants hypnotize. Ro-de-o.
Eye the stars and ground your feet, word to the wise. Don’t you know.
Roping you and me together is the prize. Ro-de-o.
Don’t you know, Ro-de-o.
John Lennon's "IMAGINE" performed by David Lockington (cello), Brent Michael Davids (quartz flute) and Dan Barker (piano). Pre Covid-19, this flute-cello-piano arrangement was originally scheduled for a 16 May 2020 concert, by Northwest Sinfonietta, to be premiered by conductor/cellist David Lockington and composer/flutist Brent Michael Davids at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma, WA. Stay tuned for updates & potential rescheduling. In response to the pandemic, Dan Barker, Brent Michael Davids & David Lockington independently added their instruments to this special recorded version. Arr. by Brent Michael Davids, Piano Arr. by Dan Barker.
COURTESY DOWNLOAD THE SHEET MUSIC:
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?!
Toing and Froing