Brent Lawrence

Composing in the Wilderness 2: on distant hills

Three Oregon composers journeyed to the Alaskan wilderness, and returned with new music and new perspectives

by BRENT LAWRENCE

Editor’s note: Now in its sixth year, the Composing in the Wilderness program led by adventurer-composer Stephen Lias, is a joint venture between Alaska Geographic, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Denali National Park, and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Nine composers — three from Oregon this year — spend four days in Denali National Park, accompanied by scientists and naturalists as they draw inspiration from the wildlife, geology, scenery, and adventure of their surroundings, then over the next few days, compose new works premiered in Denali National Park and at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. ArtsWatch asked the three Oregon composers to share their response to this unique experience. Here’s Brent Lawrence‘s account. Read Rusnak’s report here and Wright’s next week.

Brent Lawrence, Christian Dubeau, Libby Meyer, Jesse Budel, Aaron Keyt, Christina Rusnak, Sarah Stehn, Dawn Sonntag, Corinna Hogan and Jennifer Wright at 2017 Composing in the Wilderness.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that three Oregonians happened to participate in this year’s workshop. In fact, I chose to participate in Composing in the Wilderness at the recommendation of three other Oregon composers that had been in years prior.

I’ll admit that I’m a pretty new to Oregon; I’ve only lived here a year. But one of the things I love about this state is the deep connection people have with the outdoors, our public lands, and the existence of wildernesses. Don’t get me wrong, Alaska is impressive no matter who you are, but from my view, as a new Oregonian, this trip gave me a lot of perspective on why people feel so connected to the wilderness. True wilderness, not something I experienced growing up on the east coast, where there are less protected areas.

Brent Lawrence at Composing in the Wilderness.

People seek out wilderness for a variety of reasons. Being a musician, I’m always interested in how things sound. What I found most striking is the silence. Upon moving to Oregon, the first time I got out of the car near the McKenzie Pass, I was shocked at the quiet—and also realized how noisy daily life is.

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‘Music of the Forest’ preview: Old growth, new music

UO Music Today Festival concert features contemporary Oregon music inspired by old growth forest soundscapes

by GARY FERRINGTON

In the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, an hour east of Eugene, you’ll be visually immersed in an iconic landscape of towering old-growth Cedar, Hemlock, and moss-draped Douglas Fir. But close your eyes and open your ears and a rich acoustic environment is revealed: whispering treetop breezes; distant snapping sounds of animals traversing twig covered trails; bird calls echoing through the forest with insects buzzing above the ground; all this against the rhythmic beat of fast flowing water over a rocky terrain.

Oregon Composers Forum members finding musical inspiration in old growth forest. Photo: Michael Fleming.

One rainy fall day, a group of UO composition students ventured into this soundscape to listen, meditate upon, and sketch musical ideas while soaking up the inspiration the forest provided. The creative results from this and subsequent journeys back to nature, will be heard on Saturday, April 22 during the Music of the Forest concert, the third of nine events scheduled during the 2017 Music Today Festival on the University of Oregon campus.

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