The Devil’s Tower
SSAATBB, 5'00” (2019)
Devils Tower is a laccolithic butte rock formation in Northeast Wyoming, standing at 1,267 feet above the river below with impossibly steep sides, arguably giving the appearance of a colossal tree trunk. Many Native American cultures have myths surrounding the tower’s creation, including the Kiowa of the western Great Plains. According to the Kiowa, the great rock formed of a tree trunk which grew to lift seven sisters into the sky to save them from an attacking bear. The sisters then became the stars of the Pleiades.
The piece begins with sparse rhythms, dotting the music like stars, which become more and more dense and dramatic over the course of the piece. The repeated and manipulated rhythmic patterns are derived in different ways from the ascension and declination coordinates of the Pleiades star cluster. This piece divides up to seven choral parts, as a symbol of the sisters.
“The Devil’s Tower” turned a traditional legend of Wyoming’s Kiowa people into a choral tone poem that captured with tense urgency the ferocity of the story and yet managed to rest in the transfixing mystery of its denouement. -Ken Herman