Michael Sweeney 's Earth And Sky Essay

1084 Words Feb 14th, 2016 null Page
Michael Sweeney’s Earth and Sky, commissioned for the 2013 Nebraska All-State Eighth Grade Band, celebrates the Omaha tribe’s belief that the sky and earth are interconnected. Prior to the 1800s, the animistic union between sky and earth permeated all aspects of Omaha culture. In fact, the tribe even developed a social structure based on the belief. During this time, the Omaha tribe was divided into two half-tribes: the Sky People (know as the Insta’shunda) and the Earth People (known as the Hon’gashenu). Each half tribe, under the leadership of their own hereditary chief, fulfilled a specific role for the larger tribe. The Insta’shunda were responsible for the tribe’s spiritual needs, while the Hon’gashenu were charged with taking care of the tribe’s physical well being (Fletcher, & LaFlesche, 1911).
The use of a contemplative unaccompanied flute solo at the beginning of Sweeney’s tone poem is intentional. For many Native American people, flute playing is a form of meditation and a way to connect with ancestors and the environment (King, Hercules, & Jackson, 1999). As Fetcher and LaFlesche (1911) outlined, the Omaha people make their flutes out of cedar, using the rule of thumb method. Using this technique, each of the flute’s six holes are spaced one thumb width apart. Since this form of measurement allows for great deal of variation, no two flutes are pitched the same. Throughout the work, Sweeney juxtaposes the elements of sky and earth. The underlying…

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