Longform Editions acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of the land upon which we operate.

Daniel Bachman is an artist, musician, and independent scholar primarily interested in the folk histories of Virginia. Bachman has released eleven full length records since 2011 and toured extensively internationally and throughout the US, garnering wide acclaim. Much of his recent work examines the earliest influence of extractive industry in colonial British North America and how it relates to climate breakdown in the 21st century. He currently lives in Madison county Virginia.

Artist notes:

On October 24, 2023, after months of drought, a small plume of smoke appeared on the east side of Double Top Mountain, the mountain closest, and most visible from the windows of our house to the west. Two days later, record breaking heat came into our area (82F/27C), and it was clear that the fire was not only uncontained, but was being fueled by a steady blanket of leaf litter from the many trees shedding their summer foliage. That night coyotes howled while emergency vehicles from nearby towns drove past our house, one after another, their sirens bouncing off the hillsides and distorting as they neared the fire. And for the first time, red embers, acres in size, visibly pocked the hillside.
During the weeks that followed I tried to document the fire, now known as the ‘Quaker Run Fire’. I made recordings in our woods while the air filled with smoke and birds flew around the mic. I drove to the sections of the forest where the sun had been blotted out by heavy smoke and
got photo and video out of the car window. I watched as military helicopters dumped huge buckets of water on the growing fire. And while I collected all these bits, we got news that new fires had erupted elsewhere nearby. Yocum Creek and Matts Creek, the Rocklick Fire, Rachel’s Chapel fire, the Tuggles Gap fire, and more. “Putting this in perspective… the last time Wintergreen Fire worked with a helicopter was 22 years ago. It just doesn’t happen,” said a representative from the Nelson county Wintergreen Fire and Rescue Department. I converted these photos and video into WAV files and introduced sparse fiddle and guitar recordings to further illustrate the life of this fire, chopping up and rearranging those clips to mimic the changing waves of wildfire and emotion. I also used recordings of firefighting tools, such as leaf blowers, to recreate the methods used by emergency responders to combat the fire.
In the end, I let the true series of events dictate the of course the track, with several days of cold soaking November rain finally extinguishing the fire after 25 days, burning in total upwards of 4000 acres, with sections smouldering for weeks afterwards. During this time, I was reminded of a book we bought when we first moved to this area of the Shenandoah Blue Ridge, a 1926 community history of the region titled, “The History of Madison County Virginia.” In its first pages it discusses the Manahoac, a Siouan speaking group of people (and related Tribe to the federally recognised Monacan Indian Nation in Amherst VA) who lived here along the tributary waterways of the Rappahannock River. When the early English and German settlers arrived in the 18th century to violently claim the land now known as the Hebron Valley, the Manahoac they pushed out had retreated to mountain hollows and hillsides. The text reads:
“Tradition has preserved an account that in the early history of Hebron Lutheran Church two sentinels were placed at the door of the church building to guard against [Manahoac] attack. It has also been stated that the congregation of [Hebron Lutheran] could see the [Manahoac] camp fires burning on the Haywood Mountain beyond Criglersville.”
Only 300 years after European colonists established themselves along this river valley, their actions once again feed the fires. A symptom of the unrelenting pursuit of forcing profits out of this land in utter disregard for both human and nonhuman life. Gone are the hemlock and chestnut groves who have been decimated by blight and disease. The sturgeon of the Chesapeake Bay of its tributary rivers. The big cats, and buffalo of Virginia’s highlands, and the pine savannahs that were reduced to heartwood and ships mast. And now, even our eternal mountaintops are cut in half for weak seams of bituminous coal and quartered into sections for disastrous fracked methane gas pipelines. How additional global heating at the cost of extractive industry will impact future climate breakdown in the region remains unknown. One thing however is certain… a new fire regime has arrived in the Middle Appalachians.