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"Echota" (New Piece) & The Human Condition

"Echota" (New Piece) & The Human Condition

Mar 18, 2024


Kelijah Dunton

Hi everyone!

A little bit about this piece : The word "Echota” in the Cherokee language is a reference to "home” or a tent like structure, or covering. The subtext under this word on the score translates to, "The trail where they cried” . The trail of tears marked a dark period of time in American history spanning from 1831 - 1850. Thousands of civilized Native tribes people were forced out of their homes by certain players in the US government, and left with all they can carry. They were marched westward of the United States, and many, .. died along the way. This piece aims to commemorate the tragedy of this event in history. To also highlight the complexity of human condition; angst, anger, sadness, and even the memory of peace and love for one another.
This piece was Commissioned by The Northeastern State University Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Joseph Bello. For President Hanley’s Investiture, March 1st, 2024. A special gift from the NSU Foundation.
There were 2 things I tried to accomplish when writing this piece,.. 
1. How did I evolve my harmonic language and my voice ?
2. How do I stay true to and give respect to a very dark time in another cultures history?
Well, in terms of "evolving" my voice, it's been a struggle to say the least. But, I've spent some time understanding what my voice is, and more importantly, where it comes from. After my first 5 years of composing, I felt that I had reached a ceiling in my harmonic language, and that I lacked the knowledge to grow as a composer. 
I really went deep into the music that I've written before, "Stillwater", "Letters", The Sight That Await Us" ; and what I've found at the core of those pieces, is who I am. Who I am as an artist, as a man, and who I strive to be going forward. I've always considered those pieces of mine as "cute" or "adorable" at attempting to showcase the kind of person I am. What a thought that was lol .. I've since received so many nice and kind words from people all over the country; band directors, students, and audience members. I really did appreciate them, but I could never fully accept them because I knew, .. I just knew,.. that what they were hearing was an incomplete "me". A version of me that didn't understand anything about what I did musically. 
So, just this past new year, I made a promise to myself. I would try to complete myself and evolve, so that I could give people a more in depth version of my voice. I will never have it all figured out, but I've promised myself to continue to learn and grow so that I could contribute to this medium that I hold so dearly. So where does "Echota" come in? This is the piece that has gotten the closest to revealing the deepest parts of my journey. This piece has a very dark nature to it. Harmonically, it is beauty, that's is wrapped in a ball of ugly. A very harsh and demonstrative way to illustrate the event in a musical sense. 
I believe life is inherently tragic. What makes the human story so captivating, is that our ancestors sacrificed and persevered through the worst of times in order for us to be alive. It's the reason why I believe we gravitate to the music that conveys that struggle of the human condition. The struggle of love, the struggle of loss, the struggle of attaining and maintaining peace. In my music, I always try my best to tell the story of the human condition, because I know these stories will out-reach us and they will ultimately out-live us. 
Thank you for reading all the way to the end ! This piece is currently available on this very website :
-Kelijah Dunton

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