from Three Indian Songs, Op. 32 (1908) by Arthur Farwell
Perhaps in response to Antonín Dvorák's challenge to American composers to use Native American themes in their compositions, Arthur Farwell consulted Alice C. Fletcher's Indian Story and Song from North America (1900) for inspiration. In 1901, Farwell published his American Indian Melodies in his recently founded Wa-Wan Press, a publication dedicated strictly to American contemporary music. Farwell's American Indian Melodies, scored for piano solo, contained his arrangements of ten melodies that were transcribed from the songs of the Omaha tribe and preserved in Fletcher's book. The second arrangement of the set, entitled "The Old Man's Love Song," features a beautiful melody, which, according to Farwell, "wafts like the breath of a zephyr over the grasses of gentle hilltops, and is not inferior, in its idyllic quality, to the music which [Richard] Wagner conceived for the 'Flower-Maidens' in Parsifal."
Farwell later arranged three of his ten American Indian Melodies as solos for voice with piano accompaniment, which were published as Three Songs for a Low Voice by G. Schirmer in 1908. The third song from this publication was "The Old Man's Love Song," and was preceded with the following annotation by Farwell:
With the Omahas the early morning, when the maidens go to the springs for water, is the hour for the singing of love-songs. Choosing this hour, an old man of the Omaha tribe toward the close of his life went at sunrise every morning to the summit of a hill near the village and sang his radiant and peaceful song, 'With the dawn I seek thee.' The precise meaning of this ceremony was never made clear, but after the old man's death his song became a favorite, and was sung by the young people of the village.
Based on the same Omaha tribe melody used in the aforementioned solo piano version, Farwell's vocal arrangement of "The Old Man's Love Song" features the chant-like melody supported by a straightforward accompaniment containing a few harmonic surprises.
Farwell was apparently taken by the melody of "The Old Man's Love Song" because it reappeared in another of his compositions, his piano work entitled Dawn, op. 12 (published in 1902). For this work, Farwell combined the melody of "The Old Man's Love Song" with another American Indian tune, an Otoe melody. The melody of "The Old Man's Love Song" is first heard in Dawn in the left hand of the piano accompaniment, which then alternates to the right hand in measure eight. In addition, Farwell adapted "The Old Man's Love Song" for eight-part mixed chorus, which was published in Four Songs for A Capella Chorus, op. 102, in 1937. Farwell's numerous renditions of this Omaha melody have allowed many generations to experience and appreciate America's musical heritage.