JANUARY 29, 2015
Buffalo Dance, based on a Native American chant of the same name in the [NEW LINK TO COME] Robb Musical Archives, was written in 2008, shortly after Dahn had earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He wrote it for and dedicated it to Kenneth Tse, a saxophonist who is on the University of Iowa music faculty. After a year of revisions, Tse premiered the piece on March 6, 2010 at the North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial Conference in Athens, GA.
“The piece is essentially a fantasy, freely using fragments and motifs from the chant,” said Dahn. “The rambunctious opening gives way to other musical reflections of the chant…At the work’s closing moments, a wailing form of the chant’s most recognizable motif is heard in the stratosphere of the saxophone’s range.”
Dahn looked to the Robb Archives for inspiration. “Once I began mining the enormous archive for source material, I was overwhelmed, and my compositional juices began flowing,” he said. “Narrowing down the choice of source material was quite difficult, but I ultimately decided upon Buffalo Dance primarily because of its complex rhythmic and metric characteristics.”
In addition to the University of Iowa, Dahn holds degrees from Western Michigan University and Houston Baptist University. He is co-founder and co-artistic director of Ensemble Périphérie, and serves on the board of directors of the League of Composers/ISCM. His works have been performed by groups including the Moscow Conservatory Studio for New Music, the NODUS Ensemble and the NEXTET Ensemble.
The Composers’ Competition, an international biennial contest, requires composers to use material from the John Donald Robb Field Recordings in the UNM Libraries Center for Southwest Research. It comes with a $3,500 prize. Judging the 2014 competition were Hilda Paredes, creative artist from the Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte, FONCA (Mexico); Chinary Ung of the University of California at San Diego and German composer Christoph Maria Wagner.