Music, School of


First Advisor

Jamie Reimer Seaman

Second Advisor

William Shomos

Third Advisor

Karen Becker

Date of this Version

Summer 8-2021


Fife, Kiya. "Prairie Land, Prairie Heart, and Prairie Spirit: An Introductory Analysis and Performance Guide of Gwyneth Walker's Prairie Songs." DMA diss., University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2021.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Musical Arts, Major: Music, Under the Supervision of Jamie Reimer Seaman. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Kiya Fife


Largely known for her choral compositions, American composer Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947) has composed hundreds of songs for solo voice. Walker’s songs demonstrate her unique compositional style which blends many characteristics of American music, including strong rhythms, open sonorities, and influences of rock, jazz, blues, and American folk music. With each work, Walker’s goal is not only to communicate to the audience, but for the music and poetry to deliver a specific musical imagery. Walker believes that the message of a song is not solely the poetry, but that the central images of the poem are the message. Walker believes that it is only when these images are combined with music that you have words. The result of this unique compositional style is over ninety songs for solo voice that are accessible to many performers.

This document is organized into four chapters: chapter one includes an introduction to the study, review of literature, and a brief biography of Gwyneth Walker, Carl Sandburg, and Willa Cather. The second chapter includes a formal overview and discussion of the individual Prairie Songs. Chapter three is a discussion of Walker’s compositional style, the compositional process of Prairie Songs, and Walker’s relevancy as a twenty-first-century American woman composer. The fourth chapter is a summary of findings and conclusions. Finally, the document includes five appendices that contains a list of the poems from Prairie Songs, a list of musical figures, transcripts of interviews, emails between the composer and author, a catalogue of Walker’s published and recorded songs, and a bibliography.

Advisor: Jamie Reimer Seaman

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