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, the conductor-less, seven-member ensemble commissioned eleven new works inspired by the beauty and history of the national parks and premiered them at parks and historic sites across the country. Concerts at Great Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Olympic, San Juan Island, and Shenandoah National Parks included performances and field recordings on mountaintops and lakeshores, in forests and meadows, and 30 stories underground in subterranean caves.
Through the course of these performances, MAW encouraged thousands of listeners to interact with American public lands in a new way, using new music to enhance their experience of place in each natural theater. Audiences and performers alike renewed their relationships with these national treasures as sites of meaningful and shared inspiration. Following the personal and critical success of this first outing, MAW now means to embark on its next adventure.
MAW is beginning its second round of commissions, this time for a trio of flute, clarinet, and cello. The decision to experiment with this smaller ensemble was determined by acknowledging the most successful aspects of the first tours and considering how to build on this positive foundation. The success of MAW’s 2016 concerts relied on the connections the ensemble formed with each of its audiences. Listeners were encouraged to engage both with ensemble members and with their environments through new music and discussion, creating a real sense of community at each performance.
With a smaller ensemble, MAW performers can more directly engage with audiences and can access a broader range of performing environments. In the past, performance locations were often chosen to reflect restrictions posed by instruments and equipment. The benefits of a smaller ensemble include logistical ones: performers can travel to more interesting, more remote locations – and more locations in general – and can interact with natural environments with more fluidity and flexibility. A trio can be more easily assimilated into a given environment, becoming a momentary part of the fabric of that place. This assimilation will in turn allow listeners to experience their surrounding environments more vividly and seamlessly. The trio configuration allows MAW to take performances to new levels by greatly expanding the range of possible outdoor concert venues and allowing a more direct, more intimate line of communication between performers and listeners in the wilderness.
MAW seeks support to fund its first trio commission, a work by celebrated composer David Liptak. Dr. Liptak will create a piece for outdoor performance, to be premiered and recorded in the summer of 2018 in several local, state, and national parks across the country, including a performance at North Cascades National Park. Concerts may involve short hikes to access particular locations but will also be made available via online media in order to engage broader audiences with the natural world through the lens of new music.