19. Four prairie songs of Sandburg (a cantata of 4 numbers)
Text: Poems, or excerpts from poems, by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). The first three are from Cornhuskers (1918) which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
I WAS born on the prairie and the milk of its wheat,
the red of its clover, the eyes of its women, gave me a song and a slogan.
2. The Smoke of Autumn
I lean on an ash and watch the lights fall, the red ember glow,
and three muskrats swim west in a fan of ripples on a sheet of river gold.
IN the loam we sleep,
4. Windflower leaf
This flower is repeated
Texts may also be found in the .pdf file, following the full score.
Musicians: SATB chorus, one short S solo, & piano. (Piano part may be found at the end of the .pdf file.)
Length: 3:50 + 2:25 + 2:15 + 3:30 = 12 minutes.
Program notes: The subjects and imagery of these pieces are taken from the great American heartland which extends from western New York state in the east to Alberta in the northwest, and to the plains of New Mexico in the southwest. However, the underlying theme is how to live richly and ethically in the moment while surrounded by reminders of birth, death, and eternity; this is universal. Much of Sandburg's poetry is custom-built free verse which does not rely on regular meter or rhyme for structure. Rather than force his rhythms into a fixed number of beats per measure, I have varied the number of beats as needed to follow the words. This is most evident in songs #1 & #3; however, songs #2 and #4 have long passages in regular rhythm, like most songs of earlier centuries.
clouds and prairie, South Dakota
Peter Bird, 2012
pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra Americana), South Dakota
wildflowers around Nicollet Tower, South Dakota
U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2011
farmhouse in Huff, North Dakota
Andrew Filer, 2009
Little Missouri River, North Dakota
National Park Service, 2008
wild horses, North Dakota
Carl Sandburg in 1955
Al Ravenna/World Telegram/Library of Congress