Native American Culture

Native American Flute purchased by Andrew Downes in New Mexico

Listen to this Native American Song about taking care of our planet. Notice the 'heartbeat' on the drum. Sing it as you all sit around a drum and notice the community you are building.

Now watch this documentary about Native American music:

Andrew Downes, English Composer
Andrew Downes' music has been heavily influenced by the Pueblo Indian belief that we are part of, and belong to the Earth, as opposed to the very aggressive materialistic ideas of the West in which the Earth and its resources are seen as belonging to us, allowing us to exploit it to its, and our destruction. A lot of his work is deeply concerned with the pagan idea of our belonging to the earth, which is itself a great living entity, and worthy of our doing all we can to preserve its beauty for future generations of children. 

Pueblo Indian philosophy seems to deny the very Western obsession with forward moving time. Instead, everything including birth, life and death exist in a kind of timeless, natural landscape. This could be very helpful to us, as we move towards an uncertain future, probably with difficult living conditions, mass migration, lack of vital resources, and war. Music of any kind can help us to be calm and in the moment; it can help build a community; and it can help us to be happy. In a world where we are all so so busy and striving towards time and money related goals, we would all do well to adopt these ideas. Many people are starting to believe that we need to change our culture entirely, moving away from capitalism and growth in order to avoid a climate change catastrophe. 

Listen to his Concerto for Native American Flute and Strings, composed for the flute he purchased when he was visiting New Mexico.

More information and sheet music can be found here. Version for Soprano and String Quartet also available.

Listen to the following podcast to learn more about how Andrew Downes' music has been influenced by Native American culture:

Another of Andrew Downes' works inspired by Huron/Wendat Native American poetry is 'The Huron Carol' from his Ballads for Christmas for High Voices and harp

You can purchase the sheet music for this song here.
Lesson resources about the Huron/Wendat origins of this song are here.

Wind Song by Andrew Downes, English Composer
Listen to this song about the worshipping of a storm, which sets the text of a Native American poem in English Translation by Alice Cunningham Fletcher:

You can find out more about this song and download the sheet music here.

The words of the poem are as follows:

Here the wind begins to sing.
There before me stretches the land.
Here the wind begins to sing.
There before me stretches the land.

Wind-house thunder! wind-house thunder!
I go there in the thunder-covered land.

Over windy mountain! Over windy mountain!
Everywhere centipede gusts came running.
Over windy mountain! Over windy mountain!
Everywhere centipede gusts came running.

Black Snake Wind! Black Snake Wind!
Here came running in a song, tied up in a song.

Here the wind begins to sing.
There before me stretches the land.


  1. How does the music paint the words of the poem? Present your findings to the class.

Read the following talk Andrew Downes gave, which covered this topic at the Birmingham and Midland Institute in 1999:

Find out more about Native American culture and music. Do some internet research and choose a poem you particularly like to read out to the class. Compose some music to go with this poem and make a recording of it or perform it. 

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