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DwnByThRckyMtns (2016)

for flute, bass clarinet, trombone, piano, violin, double bass, & playback - 8'


"David Kirkland Garner’s DwnByThRckyMtns is built around a recording from the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern State Recording Trip collection, housed in the Library of Congress. Dated June 3, 1939, the recording was made at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida, the current Union Correctional Institution. The facility housed Florida’s death row and among the executed on ‘Old Sparky,’ as it was known, were Giuseppe Zangara, the attempted assassin of President Franklin Roosevelt. Among the 63 songs recorded from the prisoners were several sung by James Richardson, including Home on the Range, Down By The Rocky Mountains and, as leader of an African-American quartet, two spirituals: I want to Main Right on Dat Shore and You Must Be Born Again.


In her field notes, Ruby Lomax wrote: “Having escaped from Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi penitentiaries, we are caught again in Florida. From where I am sitting we see only beautiful lawns and tress, and would never guess that a few yards away there are many hundreds of prisoners confined. Florida has a very fine superintendent, Mr. Chapman, who believes that every man should be at work, and here even the cripple have their jobs, every man who is not in the hospital…… With help of the recreational director and band leader, Mr. Lomax found some singers. We set up the machine in a room that had been used for an exhibit of arts and crafts of convicts. We set up our machine and worked several hours with a quartet who sang, with guitar accompaniment for some of the songs. James Richardson who sang Home on the Range said he had sung it for radio on some state official occasion.”


Garner’s composition acts almost like a chorale prelude, treating the recorded work as a ‘chorale.’ Garner writes: “it was important for me to present a non-destructed version of the actual song.” As Bach does, the phrases of the music are segmented and incorporated in the texture of the whole, filling in the space between each phrase with original material. The title of the work does the opposite, truncating the recording’s title, while retaining its primary features."

Notes by Todd Tarantino

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