On August 27, mezzo-soprano Kathryn Findlen and pianist Robert Brewer present the world premiere of Kenneth Frazelle’s Songs of Clay and Stone at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, IN. Commissioned by Findlen, the six-movement, 20-minute song cycle features texts written by the composer, and celebrates the traditions and majestic landscapes of the American Southwest, ranging from the mesas and ancient dwellings to the artistry of Hopi master-artisan Nampeyo. The event also features projected images of well-known American West photographer Edward S. Curtis, along with highlighted pieces from the museum’s Native American pottery collection.
Frazelle offers some thoughts about Songs of Clay and Stone. “A thousand years ago, Ancestral Puebloans formed intriguing pottery and built impressive villages atop mesas and within the recesses of cliffs of what is now
the American Southwest. Today’s inhabitants of the pueblos of the Rio Grande and the Hopi mesas are descendants of these previous settlers. Through song, lyrics and music, Songs of Clay and Stone investigates specific places and individual potters, women whose artistic contributions are among the greatest American artworks.
One song brings the listener to the desolate New Mexican ruins of Chaco Canyon, peering through a series of stone doorways where one can view — through interconnected rooms — rectangles within rectangles into infinity. These portals and walls were constructed of delicate masonry meant to endure for centuries. Another section honors Nampeyo, the matriarch of Hopi pottery who revived ancient traditions at the turn of the 20th-century. Her ceramics utilized prehistoric Sikyatki designs from pottery that was being excavated beneath her First Mesa village in the late 1890’s. Studying the designs, Nampeyo infused them with her inimitable vision. [The final song] dramatizes the extreme forces of weather that sculpt the fantastic landscape using a coloristic melodic and harmonic palette that captures the subtle oranges, pinks, reds and ochres of the region.”