In the summer of 2016 Music in the American Wild (MAW) filled seven national parks with new music in honor of the U.S. National Park Service centennial. Supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, our septet commissioned eleven works inspired by the national parks and premiered them at seven parks and several historic venues across the country. We performanced and recorded on mountaintops and lakeshores, in forests and meadows, and 30 stories underground in subterranean caves. This season we are partnering with several national historical sites to explore alternative interpretations of the “wild” in our culture and will be releasing our first album in spring 2018.
Continuing our mission of commissioning and performing music inspired by and written for outdoor performance, MAW returns to North Cascades National Park in August 2018 to present a series of concerts and premiere a new work by composer Chris Chandler. The germinal ideas for this project were planted during a collaborative residency at Avaloch Farm Music Institute in August 2017. The ensemble workshopped and recorded new ideas and sketches with Chandler and experimented with sonic combinations of traditional instruments and natural materials.
Chandler writes, “With this piece, I want to reflect the expansiveness of the outdoor listening experience through an extended, open duration work (approximately 45 minutes) that blends controlled improvisational environments with fully notated passages. Characterized by slow rates of change and an introspective yet communal atmosphere, my work strives to convey a sense of timelessness and interconnectedness.
“Call and response and imitative gestures are at the heart of the work. The controlled improvisational sections give the musicians flexibility in how they contribute to the unfolding music. Drawing from variable cells, they can participate in creating a slowly evolving texture or break from this texture and call out, for instance through dynamic swell or melodic interjection, to which the other musicians can choose to respond. Several Bluetooth speakers dispersed around the ensemble and audience project field recordings of various environments (e.g., the sound of crickets, cicadas, loons, and bird calls) with which the ensemble members can interact and respond. The musicians perform both on their instruments and with natural materials gathered from their surroundings. The strike of stones and the rustle of pine branches and leaves combine and crossfade with instrumental textures, fusing to create a piece in the liminal space between soundscape and composition.”
Through the course of our past performances in the parks, MAW has encouraged thousands of visitors to interact with American public lands through a different lens, using music to enhance their experience of place in each natural setting. In this collaboration, MAW and Chandler continue to expand the boundaries of this interaction by blurring the lines between instrumental and natural sounds and encouraging listeners to attend to their surroundings in new and unexpected ways. We look forward to sharing this engaging new work with North Cascades visitors this summer and with listeners on further tours of the western U.S. in 2019.