“Die Wind Kaft”
Wind Gap, Pennsylvania
for Trombone Alone
Matthew Tyler Giobbi
Copyright January, 2020
PDF Four Sketches on Die WInd Kaft for Trombone Alone Program notes & sheet music.
On The Composition
The earliest descriptions of the mountain pass that exists some twenty miles to the west of the Water Gap, formed by the Delaware River, was made by Swedish, Dutch, and later, German settlers. The Dutch called the mountain opening “Die Wind Kaft”. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, traveler’s accounts are common. The “Wind Gap” became a physical feature that marked a voyage between Philadelphia and the Pocono mountains to the north.
In his book, Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson writes,
“From the best accounts I have been able to obtain, the place where the Delaware now flows through the Kittatinny mountain, which is a continuation of what is called the North ridge, or mountain, was not its original course, but that it passed through what is now called “the Wind-gap,” a place several miles to the westward, and about a hundred feet higher than the present bed of the river. This Wind-gap is about a mile broad, and the stones in it such as seem to have been washed for ages by water running over them. Should this have been the case, there must have been a large lake behind that mountain, and by some uncommon swell in the waters, or by some convulsion of nature, the river must have opened its way through a different part of the mountain, and meeting there with less obstruction, carried away with it the opposing mounds of earth, and deluged the country below with the immense collection of waters to which this new passage gave vent. There are still remaining, and daily discovered, innumerable instances of such a deluge on both sides of the river, after it passed the hills above the falls of Trenton, and reached the Champaign. On the New Jersey side, which is flatter than the Pennsylvania side, all the country below Croswick hills seems to have been overflowed to the distance of from ten to fifteen miles back from the river, and to have acquired a new soil by the earth and clay brought down and mixed with the native sand.”
This work is a collection of musical sketches based on four separate historical episodes in the Wind Gap. These stories were found in books and newspaper publications of the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. The historic episodes are numerous, including attacks and kidnappings by “savages,” murders, bank robbers hiding “loot” in the hills of the town, as well as military activities of the Revolutionary period. Two historically signifiant events which I did not compose musical sketches on are the Walking Purchase, which passed through the gap, and General Sullivan’s 1779 campaign to root out “savages” and British loyalists who were living in the area. To the east of the gap remains stone steps (commonly called the Indian Steps) which were thought to be built by Sullivan’s engineers who preceded the army’s march north.
The first sketch, Upon Approaching the Wind Gap, is from a compilation of travelers’ impressions of the gap. A travel poem, written by Alexander Wilson in the eighteenth century reads,
“Lo! The Blue Mountain now in front appears,
And high o’er all its lengthened ridge uprears;
Th’ inspiring sight redoubled vigour lends,
And soon its steps eave traveler ascends;
Panting we wind aloft, begloomed in shade,
‘Mid rock and mouldering logs tumultuous laid
in wild confusion; till the startled eye
Through the eleft mountain meets the pale blue sky
And distant forests; while sublimely wild,
Tow’rs each tall cliff to heaven’s own portals piled.
Enormous gap! If Indian tales be true,
Here ancient Delaware once thundr’d through,
And rolled for ages; till some earthquake dread,
Or huge convulsion shook him from his bed.
Here, under rocks, at distance from the road,
Our pond’rous knapsacks cautiosly we stowed,
The mountain’s top determined to explore,
And view the tracks already travelled o’er;
As nimble tars the hanging shrouds ascend,
While hands and feet their joint steep to step,
Scaled these rude piles, suspended over the deep,
Through low dwarf underwood with chesnuts crowned,
Whose crooked limbs with trailing moss were bound.
Eager we brush th’ impending bushes through,
Panting for breath and wet with dashing dew;
Cliff after cliff triumphant we attain,
And high at last its loftiest summits gain;
But such a prospect! – such a glorious show!
The world, in boundless landscape lay below!
Vast colored forests, to our wandering eyes,
Seemed softened gardens of a a thousand dyes.
Long lakes appeared; but at the’ increase of day
Assumed new forms and fooled in mist away.
Scooped from the woods unnumbered spots were seen
Embrowned with culture, or with pasture green;
Some cottage smoke moved slow, and dimly white;
But every hut had dwindled from sight.
In long trailed fogs, that ll its winding showed
For many a league the distant Delaware flowed;
And all beyond seemed to the ravished eye
One wast of woods, encircling earth and sky!
We gazed delighted – then, with short delay,
Descending fixed our loads and marched away.
The second sketch, A Moose in The Gap, is based on a story of a moose making its way through the gap and eventually dying. The moose’s antlers were hung above the door at Heller’s Tavern, which stood on South Broadway until 1997. As one account describes it,
“The Wind Gap moose horns were taken, Heller said, from a Moose which had been driven by dogs at a trot through the Gap, and at the Easterly end it had staggered and fallen into the roadway from exhaustion. A farmer named Adam Gross got an improvised rope and tackle, and swung the huge brute, which he averred weighed at least a ton, into his barn. It lived only a week, despite all manner of attentions devoted to it. The dead moose was propped up astride of fodder-shocker and exhibited in Gross’s barn as long as the cold weather lasted. Heller remarked that there was another set of Moose horns on the out-kitchen of Eckhard’s tavern, beyond the Wind Gap of similar size, but they were not viewed by Mr. Biddle. Several old men hanging about the tap-room told Mr. Biddle that the Pennsylvania Moose was a creature of appalling size, the males often stood eight feet at the hump, that the spread of horns was tremendous but the creatures handled these appendages with great dexterity.”
The third sketch is entitled, A journey to The “Healing Springs” Near The Wind Gap. This piece is based on multiple descriptions of a medicinal spring that attracted European settlers in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. As one account described it,
“These springs seem early to have claimed attention, and were thought by the first settlers to equal the most celebrated spas of Europe… There was one in the neighborhood of the Wind Gap in the Blue Mountain, which on the early maps of the State was called the Healing Spring, and marked by the representation of of a number of tents pitched around it.”
It is thought that the spring is at Ross Common, just above the gap.
The fourth sketch is entitled, The Black Swamp, and is a descriptive piece inspired by impressions of the swamp and impenetrable woodland that early travelers encountered on the north side of the gap. The poem from Alexander Wilson describes it,
From this rough mountain, northward as we bend,
Below us, wide, the woody wilds extend;
The same ground oak o’er all the country lies,
The same burnt pines in lonely prospect rise,
Mute and untenanted; save where the jay
Set up his shrill alarm, and bore away.
One solitary hawk that sailed serene,
Secure, and eyeing the expanded scene,
High from his zenith, ‘midst the bursting roar,
Dropt at our feet, and fluttered in his gore;
“Thus falls,” said Duncan, “many a son of pride,
“While buoyed in thought o’er all the world beside.”
From these dull woods emerging into day,
We pass where farms their opening fields display,
Barns, fences, cottages, and lawns appeared,
Where various sounds of human toil were heard;
There, round a hut, upon a sloping green…”
Matthew Giobbi, October, 2020