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The ambient noise of the Southwest

The host of Ambient Transience talks about the influence of Native American music

By Alex Case-Cohen

Thanksgiving is a time for Americans to be with family and friends, give thanks and overstuff our bellies.  Few people seem to remember the origins of this gluttonous holiday; the pilgrims were showing gratitude to Native Americans for helping them in times of need. In honor of thanksgiving, I decided to give thanks by playing selections of ambient music from Native American musicians and bands. I chose songs from famous wood pipe musicians and flutists such as R. Carlos Nakai, Douglas Blue Feather and Ulali.  I also chose more well-known artists, like Redbone and one of my new favorites, Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Traditionally, I travel to Arizona over Thanksgiving to spend time with my grandparents and to enjoy the beautiful desert sun. This year, in addition to my annual trip to AZ, I ventured to Joshua Tree National Park, yet another desert haven.  The southwestern United States was once home to hundreds of tribes, including the Hopi, Navajo and Apache (to name a few).  The desert is a much less remote and enigmatic setting as it once was, and the Native Americans populating the area have been reduced to a small fraction of the original inhabitants.

Though the nature of manifest destiny has taken away from the magnificence of the American southwest, it is still one of my favorite destinations in the world. Once you can get away from industrialization and the city, it is much easier to appreciate the land that used to belong to a majestic population. This Thanksgiving, I hope you remember to give thanks for nature, for beauty, and for all of human kind.

Ambient Transience airs every Thursday from 12-2 a.m.