Monday, July 4, 2016

Song For America on Independence Day

From America's Progressive Rock Band Kansas (all the other 1970s Prog groups were either European, or Rush, Canadian).

This is a very cool tune; though the lyrics are kind of "down with America." Writer Kerry Livgren is now arch-conservative (as are some, though not all members of the band). I doubt he feels the same way now. Though a crunchycon, paleocon, yeoman farmer glorifying type could still get into the sentiment.


Mrs. Webfoot said...

Interesting song, Jon. Of course, trees around here grow like weeds and we don’t engage in slash and burn farming techniques like other people groups did and still do in parts of the Americas. Happy Independence Day!

Jonathan Rowe said...
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Jonathan Rowe said...

Thanks. I wonder if you, a musician can hear, in the refrain at the 2:00 mark and that also ends the song, the two different time signatures. The rhythm section is playing in 4/4. The guitar and violin are playing a background lick in 7/16. I admit, I don't hear the 7 because the rhythm section is in 4 and my ears are mediocre. At the very end when the rhythm section stops I hear the 7, which plays out for a few seconds after the rhythm stops. I had to see to score to notice it. It's like poor man's Charles Ives or Leonard Bernstein stuff. But more accessible to ordinary rock and roll ears.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Of course, trees around here grow like weeds and we don’t engage in slash and burn farming techniques like other people groups did and still do in parts of the Americas.

Yes, the Native Americans slash-and-burned just like everybody else. Bad to get your history from musicians.



The extent, frequency, and impact of Indian burning is not without controversy. Raup (1937) argued that climatic change rather than Indian burning could account for certain vegetation changes. Emily Russell (1983, 86), assessing pre1700 information for the Northeast, concluded that: "There is no strong evidence that Indians purposely burned large areas," but Indians did "increase the frequency of fires above the low numbers caused by lightning," creating an open forest. But then Russell adds: "in most areas climate and soil probably played the major role in determining the precolonial forests." She regards Indian fires as mainly accidental and "merely" augmental to natural fires, and she discounts the reliability of many early accounts of burning.

Forman and Russell (1983, 5) expand the argument to North America in general: "regular and widespread Indian burning (Day 1953) [is] an unlikely hypothesis that regretfully has been accepted in the popular literature and consciousness." This conclusion, I believe, is unwarranted given reports of the extent of prehistoric human burning in North America and Australia (Lewis 1982), and Europe (Patterson and Sassaman 1988, 130), and by my own and other observations on current Indian and peasant burning in Central America and South America; when unrestrained, people burn frequently and for many reasons. For the Northeast, Patterson and Sassaman (1988 ' 129) found that sedimentary charcoal accumulations were greatest where Indian populations were greatest.

Elsewhere in North America, the Southeast is much more fire prone than is the Northeast, with human ignitions being especially important in winter (Taylor 1981). The Berkeley geographer and Indianist Erhard Rostlund (1957, 1960) argued that Indian clearing and burning created many grasslands within mostly open forest in the so-called "prairie belt" of Alabama. As improbable as it may seem, Lewis (1982) found Indian burning in the subarctic, and Dobyns (1981) in the Sonoran desert. The characteristics and impacts of fires set by Indians varied regionally and locally with demography, resource management techniques, and environment, but such fires clearly had different vegetation impacts than did natural fires owing to differences in frequency, regularity, and seasonality.

Forest Composition

In North America, burning not only maintained open forest and small meadows but also encouraged fire-tolerant and sun-loving species. 'Fire created conditions favorable to strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and other gatherable foods" (Cronon 1983, 51). Other useful plants were saved, protected, planted, and transplanted, such as American chestnut, Canada plum, Kentucky coffee tree, groundnut, and leek (Day 1953, 339-40). Gilmore (1931) described the dispersal of several native plants by Indians. Mixed stands were converted to single species dominants, including various pines and oaks, sequoia, Douglas fir, spruce, and aspen (M. Williams 1989, 4748). The longleaf, slash pine, and scrub oak forests of the Southeast are almost certainly an anthropogenic subclimax created originally by Indian burning, replaced in early Colonial times by mixed hardwoods, and maintained in part by fires set by subsequent farmers and woodlot owners (Garren 1943). Lightning fires can account for some fire-climax vegetation, but Indian burning would have extended and maintained such vegetation (Silver 1990, 17-19, 59--64).

Even in the humid tropics, where natural fires are rare, human fires can dramatically influence forest composition. A good example is the pine forests of Nicaragua (Denevan 1961)...

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Yes, the Native Americans slash-and-burned just like everybody else. Bad to get your history from musicians."

Yes it's probably true that the Native Americans didn't tend to live in perfect harmony with nature as has been reported and could damage the environment like anyone else.

The point of the Kansas' tune is that the whites who came to and built America slashed, burned, and built, far, wide and up on a much grander scale.

Jonathan Rowe said...

You have to be able to invent the wheel before you can build an interstate highway system that can "scar the mountainside" as Livgren put it in that song.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I just wish that at least once a year, left-wing douchebaggery could take the day off.