“The black cloud was getting closer and closer, closer and closer, closer and closer,” chants Vivienne Jake in Dark Winds Rising, a work for wind quintet and taped voices by Phillip Bimstein.
The black cloud feared by Vivienne was a proposed toxic waste incinerator, which threatened the sanctity of her native land in 1990. In Dark Winds Rising, the feelings and values of the people who live on that land are expressed in their own words and voices. Initial outrage gives way to the quiet strength of resistance, leading to a restored sense of balance and hope. “Your strength is from within,” concludes Vivienne in the second movement, Walking Barefooted.
The voices of three generations of the Jake family are the source material on which the composition is based. With a digital sampler and computer, Bimstein edited and reconstructed the voices into music/text compositions. Using a technique he calls “voice organics,” the composer created mesa winds, industrial ratchets, a snake pit, birdcalls, and other sounds from the spoken words. Developing rhythms and melodies inherent in the speech patterns, Bimstein then composed a score, originally for string quartet and later for wind quintet.
Bimstein was the mayor of Springdale, Utah, forty miles from the Kaibab Paiute Reservation, where and when this controversy took place. He interviewed and recorded former tribal chairperson Vivienne, her mother Lucille, and her nephew Verdel in November 1991.
Bimstein first composed Dark Winds Rising on a grant from New Forms: Regional Initiative, with funding from the NEA, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Apache Corporation. Dark Winds Rising was given “a powerful premiere” (Salt Lake Tribune) by the critically acclaimed Windham Hill recording artists Turtle Island String Quartet in Salt Lake City, August 1992. Their recording of the work is available on the Starkland CD of Bimstein’s music titled Garland Hirschi’s Cows.
In 1994, funded in part by a grant from the Nevada State Council on the Arts, Bimstein composed the wind quintet arrangement for Sierra Winds.
Dark Winds Rising was reviewed by The Washington Post as “Handsomely crafted . . . rhythmically exciting . . .first-rate” and by the Deseret News as “pensive, eerie and thought-provoking.”
Dark Winds Rising is presented as a celebration of the values and feelings which lead people to maintain the purity of their land. In the closing words of Lucille: “In our hearts, we hope for the best among all people.”