Bimstein “Dark Wind Rising”

Phillip Bimstein

Dark Wind Rising (1992)

“The black cloud was getting closer and closer, closer and closer, closer and closer,” chants Vivienne Jake in Dark Winds Rising, a work for string quartet and taped voices by Utah composer 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 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 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 its world premiere 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.

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.”

The Last Jake . . .

My name’s Verdel Jake
I was born in 1968 in Kanab, Utah And my grandmother brought me up To respect things
She told me who I was
I’m the last Jake
I’m the last of our line

My grandmother would always say, “Verdel, come home”
So I go back to the reservation That’s a sacred place

The earth has so much power It’s beyond control
If you can respect it
And become one with it

You can learn to cope with it
And I tell her these things
And she comforts me
And that’s how it always should be

The incinerator’s a mechanical power That’s money power
That’s the power of land and control And I looked at that dollar and it says, “In God we trust –

In God, in God, in God we trust” That’s their God
They’ll do anything for their God They’d die for their God

See, we wouldn’t only be contaminating ourselves We’d be contaminating everybody
That’s not right
How can you lie to my people like that?

I’m going to fight you ’til I die
They picked the wrong reservation really

Walking Barefooted

I’m Vivienne
I’m Jake
I’m from the Kaibab Paiute Reservation
I’m a member of the tribe
My first memories are probably kicking the sand around

Walking barefooted
In the summertime
Walking barefooted
Never needing shoes all summer long

This is a natural world
There’s a lot of unnatural things coming about The black cloud was getting closer and closer Closer and closer
Closer and closer
What now?
What am I going to do?
Even the thought of an incinerator . . .
A deep deep hurt inside
A feeling of doom –

Like as if we were dying already That we were dead already
A deep deep hurt inside
Deep deep deep

Deep deep hurt inside
Even the thought of an incinerator . . .
Even the thought –
You better think again!
We decide our own future
You cannot possibly make those decisions for us I will stop you every which way I can!

The Kaibab Paiute Reservation
A special place
Go there and look at the rocks
And listen to what you’re being told
If you learn to respect the animals
You can receive the messages from them Outer self needs to experience the inner self That’s where you have your heart feelings There’s a lot of hope for you

Your strength is from within

Walking barefooted
In the summertime
Walking barefooted
Never needing shoes all summer long

With the Earth

The Indian people have always been held back They’ve been put down
And they keep standing up
But each time they stand up

They stand up stronger and stronger
They struggle and they struggle and they struggle but They’re strong
Their power is so strong if it’s used in the right way They have to go to the heart of it
See how strong they are

I shouldn’t walk upon the earth I shouldn’t walk upon the earth I shouldn’t walk upon the earth

I should walk with the earth

Among All People

I told them,
“There is not going to be no incinerator”
I said, “There is not going to be no incinerator”

Paiute Song

My name’s Lucille Jake
I’m from Kaibab, Arizona
I was born on the Kaibab Paiute Reservation March the 21st, 1920
I have four children left now
And I have ten grandchildren
They’re scattered all over

I knew it wasn’t going to happen Something told me it wasn’t going to be

I told them,
I told them,
“There is not going to be no incinerator”
I said, “There is not going to be no incinerator”

Paiute Song

I sang about the willows and the water
When the water’s running it has a white foam Oh, I’ve heard the old people sing it
It’s handed down from people to people

I think I’m the last one that remembers that song Oh yes, oh yes

In our hearts,
We hope for the best Among all people

Oh yes

“Phillip Bimstein uses the voices, natural sounds and culture of his adopted home in his compositions, and he practices politics with music in mind.“

– National Public Radio’s All Things Considered

Alternative classical composer Phillip Bimstein lives in Salt Lake City and Springdale, Utah, where he served two terms as mayor. A recipient of grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, American Composers Forum, Austria’s Prix Ars Electronica and an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Bimstein’s music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Bang on a Can Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Spoleto Festival and London’s Royal Opera House.

Ensembles who have performed Bimstein’s works include Relâche, Turtle Island String Quartet, Modern Mandolin Quartet, Present Music, Abramyan String Quartet, Sierra Winds, Equinox Chamber Players, the California E.A.R. Unit and Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues.

A Starkland CD of Bimstein’s music, Garland Hirschi’s Cows, garnered rave reviews internationally in such publications as Stereo Review, Wired, Fanfare, Stereophile, and this from Schwann Opus: “A highly entertaining, populist-oriented collection of serious modern music. Bimstein’s compositions are a virtual breath of fresh air.”

Starkland released a second CD of Bimstein’s compositions, Larkin Gifford’s Harmonica, in 2006. In the New York Times review of the CD, Steve Smith wrote, “the irresistible charm of Mr. Bimstein’s music has less to do with technology than with his uncanny knack for finding the music of everyday life.” The composer John Adams wrote, “Like their composer, the pieces on this album communicate a generous and good-natured spirit that is tempered with wry wit and a special sense of the western landscape and culture that he so loves.”

Bimstein was born in Chicago and is a graduate of Chicago Conservatory of Music, where he majored in theory & composition. In the 1980s he led the new wave band Phil ‘n’ the Blanks, whose three albums and six videos were college radio and MTV hits. After further studies at UCLA in composition, orchestration and conducting, Bimstein took a hiking trip to southern Utah and never left.

In 1997 Bimstein was awarded Meet The Composer’s largest grant, the three-year New Residencies, during which he composed music that celebrates and explores the intimate relationship between the landscapes of the desert southwest and the many cultures that have inhabited the area. One of the residency-created works, Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa, has been performed by well over 100 musicians all over the world.

Fascinated by language and the ability of music to tell a story, he frequently incorporates text in his work. Refuge, his string quartet based on the book by Utah naturalist Terry Tempest Williams, was described as “sublime – elegant perfection” by the Deseret News.

In 2005 Bimstein composed Lockdown, a techno tone poem based on the sounds and voices of a youth crisis center in southern Utah. In addition to public concerts, the work is presented as dialogue- promoting outreach to youth detention facilities and prevention programs.

In 2006 Bimstein received his second Continental Harmony grant from the American Composers Forum to compose Zion Canyon Song Cycle based on the historical and contemporary stories of his community. Performed by his Americana folk chamber group Red Rock Rondo, it is the subject of an Emmy Award winning PBS -TV music special, which also won Bimstein an Emmy for the musical composition. In 2011 Bimstein composed a new song cycle for Red Rock Rondo based on the best-selling book by Ted Gup, A Secret Gift.

Described by Outside Magazine as “America’s only all-natural politician-composer,” Bimstein served two terms as Springdale mayor. Due to his successful efforts to bring harmony to his previously divided community, Parade Magazine dubbed Bimstein, “The Man Who Brought Civility Back to Town.”

Bimstein has served as Chair of the Utah Humanities Council (who awarded him the 2009 UHC Alumni Award and the Delmont R. Oswald Fellowship), Vice-President of the American Music Center in New York, and he is profiled in Who’s Who in America. Bimstein designs and teaches an interdisciplinary course in the University of Utah’s Honors College, “Composing a Community,” and he is a frequent keynote speaker on creativity, community and collaboration. Information about Bimstein’s music and other projects can be found at his website:

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