Night on the Prairies (2007)
Night on the Prairies was composed for Nicola Melville's "Melville Project" shortly after moving to Northfield, MN. Nikki commissioned thirteen composers to write short pieces for advanced young pianists. The CD that resulted from this amazing undertaking can be purchased from Innova Recordings, the label of the American Composers Forum here. You can also listen to excerpts and purchase from emusic.com.
My recent orchestral and choral work, The River Between, contains a setting of Walt Whitman's Night on the Prairies and served as an inspiration for this piano composition. As I had never actually lived on or near the prairie before moving to Minnesota to teach, I felt a new connection to that text after many walks through Carleton College's beautiful and expansive arboretum. This short piece attempts to evoke something of the purity of those natural surroundings, while also giving allusion to a kind of simple campfire tune that perhaps Whitman's "wearied emigrants" might have sung or whistled as "the fire on the ground burns low".