James Barnes (b. 1949) is an American composer of primarily works for wind band. Born in Oklahoma, he studied and taught at the University of Kansas. His compositions for band have been played all over the world, including in three separate recordings by the renowned Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. He is a two-time winner of the prestigious Ostwald award for new band compositions.
Barnes provides the following note to his 1987 Pagan Dances:
The Pagan Dances completes the cycle of four “primitive” works for symphonic band. I began with Visions Macabre in 1978, followed by Invocation and Toccata in 1980, and Torch Dance in 1984. All of these works employ highly dissonant harmonic combinations, repetitive melodic material, and driving rhythm to showcase the symphonic band’s immense power and dramatic color combinations. This suite is intended to portray an imaginary scene from prehistoric times as if it were a scene from a ballet. It begins with the entrance of the worshipers performing a Ritual dance before their idol god. Mystics, or high priests, appear, evoking incantations and performing feats of sorcery before the worshipers. Suddenly, The Master of the Sword enters, performing a savage dance that culminates with his execution of a sacrifice on the high altar with his broadsword.
The usual links:
Nice long-ish article on Barnes at Suite101. It happens to have been published on his 60th birthday!
And some video: