Ballad Of Wounded Knee (Orchestra) Gerald Wilhelm Braden |


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I composed my Ballad Of Wounded Knee with great sorrow, and respect for the Lakota Native Americans that were needlessly massacred by the US Army
on December 29, 1890, at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. It has been estimated that over 300 Lakota men, women, and children were massacred that sad and fateful day. Sadly, America has had a terrible history of racism against almost any people that were not white and Christian, since the Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock 400 years ago in December, 1620. This racism grew, festered, and became a commonplace occurrence among whites, that culminated in a long, sad, and violent history of slavery in this nation, as well as the poor treatment of all the Asians that built our railroads, and the Native Americans, that were the first true “Americans.”

I did quite a bit of research of the Lakota tribes, their music, and the popular music of the west and mid west in the late 19th century, as well as listening to a large amount of music from great old TV and movie westerns. This really helped me to come up with the themes and rhythms I composed. This recording is a simple midi recording, played from my written score, using sampled instruments. As with all of my orchestral works, it will never see it’s true light, until it is performed live with a real conductor and musicians. I hope you enjoy this….Peace!

The first theme opens with a peaceful sunrise at a Lakota village, next to a quiet stream of water. I used a Harp as the flowing water, the French Horns as warmth of the rising sun, and the Flutes and Oboe as the Lakota tribe waking to a slight warm breeze blowing through the trees. In the next theme, we are in an Army camp, and the French Horn is used again with a “western type” melody in “A Major,” to wake the troops. The next theme uses the Brass section, Strings, and Snare Drum to suggest the troops are now awake and alert. When we move on to the next theme, we slip into “A Minor,” and we can almost feel that something ominous is coming.

There is a slight “calm before the storm,” and we listen to the Snare Drum and the Trumpets calling the troops to mount up, with the Flutes answering this call, as though it is the Stars and Stripes answering the call of the Trumpets. When the troops are all mounted and ready to ride, I use a very “western” type theme in “C Major” to simulate the troops riding hard across the plains. As the music builds, I modulate to “Bb Minor,” and we come closer to the terrible massacre. During the massacre (which I composed more like a “battle,” which it was not), I used Snare Drum, Timpani, Cymbals, and a Bass Drum being played with 2 mallets, using quick triplets to simulate Artillery Cannons being fired. At the end of the massacre, I used a dissonant chord in slowing dotted quarter notes, to give the effect hopelessness. After the massacre, there is a short melancholy section that lead into the Lakota “Ghost Dance.” I used orchestra instruments for the Ghost Dance “chant” melody, with the drums pounding in an 8th note triplet rhythm. Though when this piece is eventually performed live, all the musician in the orchestra that are not playing during the “Ghost Dance” will chant the Lakota lyrics, which is only one line that is repeated over and over “Da day ahhh…., Hey ah, Hey ah, I oh hey…, Da day ahhh…., Hey ah, Hey ah, I oh hey….” This dance was probably the main reason tha eventually caused the Army to massacre these people. The Army “ordered” the Lakota to stop doing this dance, and they refused. The Army and most white people thought this was some type of ‘war dance” as a prelude to a massive attack by the Native Americans, when in reality, it was simply a dance and chant calling on their ancestors to return to them.

After the Ghost Dance, we return the peaceful Lakota tribes first theme, and briefly to the Army camp scene, and then on to 4 measures of the ominous “A Minor” melody, and then a peaceful and melodic finale in “A Major.”

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