Onekha’shòn:a, Yakòn:kwe means the Waters, the Women in the (Mohawk) language. It honors the lives and families of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and is dedicated to those working to end this epidemic, and let people know about what is going on in North America for decades. In this work, I explore the symbiotic relationship of women and water through various soundscapes from which I hope to raise awareness and action about necessity to protect both the waters and women.
Water is Life is a slogan most recently used at Standing Rock and by the Native American Women Water Walkers, refers to a Native American understanding of water that gives us life and has a spirit. The symbiotic connection of women who are also life-givers has a deep spiritual connection to the waters that is not separate from each other. Traditionally and today, women in many Indigenous cultures are the water-keepers.
The piece is written in three movements and each start with the violinist imitating the Native soundscape of a rattle in honor of the landscape of both the waters and the women. The pianist speaks phrases in Kaniènkehaka from the Haudenosaunee Ohenton kariwate’kwen (Iroquois Thanksgiving address) that translate as follows - Mvt 1: “We give blessings to the waters,” Mvt 2: “We give blessings to the women,” Mvt 3: We give blessings to the waters, the women.”
Much of my music contains what I call Indigenous soundscapes or perceptions of sound that come from my Native heritage. Sounds of rattles, the drum and Kaniènkéhaka (Mohawk language) are produced using various contemporary piano and string techniques.
The first movement honors the waters with a passionate melody for the violin, and piano arpeggios that represent the natural flow of water. In the second movement, we hear the breakdown of the water through dissonance and dynamic interruptions. This movement depicts the reciprocated effect of waters and women. I incorporated part of the Adagio melody from Bach’s Sonata No. 3 for violin and keyboard (inspired by the 2016 recording of Duo Concertante), to be symbolic of the damaged relationship and encroaching Western values of materialism over spirituality, especially in terms of our responsibility to mother earth. The last movement honors the traditional balance between the waters and the women and reflects my hope for the future in healing both. In this movement, one hears a melody in the style of a Haudenosaunee women’s song, water sounds, specific harmonic and melodic references from the Bach sonata, as well as rattle sounds in both the violin and the piano. This last movement can stand alone as a sonic blessing to both the waters and the women.
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