A big part of my practice as a composer is being in the wilderness making field recordings, and I will be making many recordings along the way. Starting in southern California I will mail the field recordings to 6 different composers in California, Oregon and Washington who will sift through them, choose one, then create a brief musical response for a solo instrument to accompany the field recording. These pieces with field recording accompaniment will be posted online as I am walking so people can listen to sounds changing over time as I move north, and hear how different composers along the West Coast relate to these sounds nearby them. These recordings will be gathered at the end of the journey and released dually with the piece that I'll be working on. Collaborating composers (south to north) include Carolyn Chen, Scott Worthington, Andrew Tholl, Chris Kallmyer, Brenna Noonan, Scott Unrein, Hanna Benn, and John Teske.
Undertaking a residency pushes artists in new directions and ways of creating that are outside their normal boundaries. Being in the wilderness specifically for long periods of time can change how we simply listen and compose. Many composers have taken walks as part of their practice, and in a variety of ways. For instance, Elliott Carter took a daily walk down 12th street in Manhattan, and, famously, Bach walked 300 miles to hear Buxtehude play!
In Zen there is a long history of people walking to study with teachers, become hermits, and traverse sacred trails and mountains. In the 1950s Western culture began to interact with these Eastern traditions via beat poets like Gary Snyder - Snyder walked in Japan with an esoteric sect of Buddhists called the Yamabushi. Walking along the sacred Diamond-Womb Trail near Kyoto, Snyder took part in their wilderness rituals - blowing conch shells, chanting and paying homage to deities that inhabit different peaks. These interactions informed his own Zen practice and in turn his understanding of the natural world and man’s place in it - themes central to his work as a writer.
Perhaps this is an opportunity to begin weaving contemporary experimental music into the mythology of this epic trail, pushing American music into new realms not often engaged with in our gilded concert halls, university classrooms, or every-day-coffee-shop city lives. By having a dialogue with the places we live and work we can create a greater sense of place and community, and walking every inch of that place will surely contribute to that for myself, for the composers who live on the West Coast near the trail, and the communities we all live in - this place that Snyder points out many Native American tribes call simply: Turtle Island.
I'm undertaking a funding campaign to cover some of the costs and pay the different composers who'll be collaborating on this project. The $8,000 minimum goal is the amount we need to start this project, but additional funds would have to be raised along the way. In the event that the $11,000 mark is surpassed, the excess money will be divided up equally amongst all the composers involved in this project and musicians who'll record the work after the walk is over.
If you're interested in making a donation to this exciting project, have a look at the perks and pick what's right for you! Thank you!