Buffalo Soldiers opens with an optional excerpt of a speech given by Abraham Lincoln three years before the start of the Civil War. The chimes reinforce hopefulness, while the timpani background suggests the ominous, foreboding events to come.
“The Declaration of Independence is broad enough to include the whole human family, yet it is argued that the authors of that instrument did not intend to include negroes. In those days, our Declaration of Independence was held sacred by all, and thought to include all; but now, to aid in making the bondage of the negro universal and eternal, it is assailed, and sneered at, and construed, and hawked at, and torn, until if its framers could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it. All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon is after him; ambition follows, and philosophy follows, and the Theology of the day is fast joining the cry. They have him in his prison house, they have searched his person, and left no prying instruments with him. One after another they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him, and now they have him, bolted in with a lock of a hundred keys, which can never be unlocked without the concurrence of every key, the keys in the hands of a hundred different men, and they scattered to a hundred different and distant places; and they stand musing as to what invention, in all the dominions of mind and matter, can be produced to make the impossibility of his escape more complete than it is”.- Abraham Lincoln, June 16, 1857, Springfield, Illinois.
The overture suggests the interactions between a recruit and his loved ones as he prepares to leave for the Army.
3) Bugle Calls
The music continues with a series of bugle calls which were used by the cavalry to give troops nonverbal commands. These musical phrases, usually sounded by trumpets or drums, directed their daily activity.
This portion of the score is based on selected bugle calls used by General Philip St. George Cooke in his “Cavalry Tactic Regulations”, published in 1872.
In some sections the bugle calls are reharmonized as a melody, and in other sections they are played as written, and the event surrounding the bugle call is interpreted through the music. In all cases the melody of the bugle call is unaltered. The bugle calls are presented in the order that they were used during the garrison days of the 9th and 10th Cavalry.
Reveille (0530hrs)-Soldiers scurry about to prepare for the morning troop formation.
Assembly (0535hrs)-After Assembly, soldiers converse about the coming day and what is to be expected.
Breakfast (0640hrs)-The cooks do their best with the food, but complaints are the order of the day.
Drill Call (1530hrs)-As the day comes to a close, the soldiers reflect on their families and contemplate their futures. They then quickly organize themselves and prepare for the end of the day formation.
4) Narration (optional) and Retreat
“Beginning with the Buffalo Soldiers in 1866, African-Americans would henceforth always be in uniform, challenging the conscience of a nation, posing the question: How could they be allowed to defend the cause of freedom, if they themselves were denied the benefits of being Americans? But we are not here today to criticize an America of 150 years ago, but to rejoice that we live in a country that has permitted a spiritual descendent of the Buffalo Soldiers to rise to the highest military rank in our nation. They showed that the theory of inequality must be wrong, and since those days, thousands of other brave black Americans have gone in harms’ way for their country, always moving forward and upward, step by step, sacrifice by sacrifice. Our purpose in remembering the Buffalo Soldiers is to motivate us to keep struggling until all Americans have an equal seat at our National Table, until all Americans enjoy every opportunity to excel, every chance to achieve their dream, limited only by their imagination and ability. Let us also be determined that the most important dream, that American dream of progress and full equality, will gain a new strength, a new meaning, and a new tomorrow.” General Colin Powell, July 25, 1992, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Used by permission
At ten minutes before sunset, Retreat* is sounded as the American Flag is lowered, and the cannon is fired.
Troops throughout the garrison interrupt their duties to stand at attention in honor of Old Glory.
Buffalo Soldiers concludes with this bugle call, which is as much a signal of the surrendering of the days’ struggle as it is the commitment to achieve a better day with the next dawn.
*this bugle call is an arrangement of a chord reharmonization developed by composer Carol Williams