Amargosa, meaning “bitter water,” is the name given to both the desert region along the southwestern edge of the Nevada state line and the seasonal river that flows there. Directly west of the Amargosa Desert lies the expanse of Death Valley; the Amargosa River, when flowing, eventually empties into the alkali sink there at Badwater.
The Amargosa is a foreboding, challenging, and beautiful landscape. Its history is filled with native tribes, horse thieves, miners, farmers, explorers, grifters, financiers, and a ballerina; of those that have attempted to settle and stay in the region, only a select few have had any success.
The region is dominated by stillness and quiet, demanding respect from the visitor. The Amargosa is quick to show you how insignificant and valuable you truly are.
Melodic elements for the piece incorporate aspects of transcriptions of Paiute and Shoshone songs likely sung in the Amargosa and surrounding areas. These transcriptions were found in the following books:
Pietroforte, Alfred. Yokuts amd Paiute Songs and Culture. Healdsburg, CA: Naturegraph Publishers, Inc., 1965.
Steward, J. H. Ethnography of the Owens Valley Paiute. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1930.
This piece is dedicated to my friend, Michael Pietrobon.