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Music in the American Wild: Soundscapes

A new, extended work inspired by, making use of, and performed in the outdoors

The Latest Update

First performance tomorrow

Posted on August 25, 2018 by Daniel Ketter

Our first performance of Chris Chandler’s piece, Audubon Sketches, will be tomorrow morning at 11am on the Trail of the Cedars in Newhalem, WA, at North Cascades National Park Complex. We will be about a quarter of a mile in at the bend of the loop and rangers will be directing visitors to explore the trail and enjoy the music. 

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Premiere performance at North Cascades National Park

Posted on July 25, 2018 by Daniel Ketter

From August 21-25, 2018, the American Wild Ensemble will be in residence at North Cascades National Park to celebrate their 50th anniversary. More details about the residency are available here: https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/noca-50.htm

Chris Chandler’s piece will be premiered on Saturday, August 25, as a part of a “musical hike” giving audiences a unique natural experience of a park installation with this sound installation. 


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.

Project Media

Chris Chandler: “a point off in the blue woods” (2016)
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This video includes footage from MAW’s 2016 Washington tour of North Cascades, Olympic, Mount Rainier, and San Juan Island National Parks, accompanied by the second movement of Chris Chandler’s piece “The View from Here,” entitled “a point off in the blue woods.” This live recording was made at San Juan Island National Historical Park.

Tonia Ko: Covers and Uncovers (2016)
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“Covers and Uncovers” was commissioned for Music in the American Wild’s national park tours celebrating the 2016 U.S. National Park Service centennial. It is an exploration of small gestures and sounds coming together to create larger, homogenous textures in music and space. MAW premiered and performed this work in summer 2016 at seven national parks and several historic sites. This video shows a live performance of Tonia Ko’s work at San Juan Island National Historical Park’s American Camp, featuring the full MAW ensemble.

Chris Chandler: “The View from Here” (2016)
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Chris Chandler composed “The View from Here” for MAW’s 2016 tour of seven national parks, in honor of the National Park Service centennial. The three movements, “drones and swells of the not far road,” “a point off in the blue woods,” and “moving points in the hooves and feet of animals,” are inspired by specific locations in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park but create evocative atmospheres that feel universal to the experience of being in the great outdoors.

Start and End Dates



North Cascades National Park, Washington

2 updates
Last update on August 25, 2018

Project Created By

Springfield, Missouri
Emlyn Johnson is a flutist active in performing, presenting, and commissioning new music. With cellist Daniel Ketter, she directs several endeavors that engage audiences with community-focused, context-driven contemporary music, often in unconventional spaces. 

In Collaboration With

Springfield, Missouri
Richmond, Virginia


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