Singing the Blue Ridge
About this work:
Singing the Blue Ridge invites us into the habitat we share with other living creatures – such as deer, frogs, otter, racoon, wolf, peeper and toad. New technology makes it possible to bring the outdoors in, and here the sounds of indigenous animals sing together with those of the human singers and orchestra.Singing the Blue Ridge is scored for mezzo, baritone, orchestra and electronic playback. The four poems were created specially for this composition by the distinguished poet Barbara Goldberg. The first sings of a glorious spring morning celebrated in the wild; the second, of the fate of frogs and people when they collide; the third, of the natural cycle of eat or be eaten; the last, of the havoc wreaked by humans through greed or carelessness, as well as the hope for better stewardship to come.
Singing the Blue Ridge was commissioned by Wintergreen Performing Arts through the Animating Democracy Initiative of Americans for the Arts, funded by the Ford Foundation. It is part of the larger project, Preserving Rural Soundscapes. The aim of the project is to use Art-Based Civic Dialogue to raise awareness of issues of growth and planning as citizens in Nelson County worked on plans for area development. I was delighted to lead components of the larger project as well, including sound walks open to the public, assemblies at the Rockfish Gap and Tye River Elementary Schools, and to offer classes in improvisation both at Rockfish Gap elementary school and the Wintergreen Summer Academy.
I want to express my deep gratitutde to Lang Elliott of Nature Sound Studio (http://www.naturesound.com) and to the outstanding Macaulay Natural Sound Library of Cornell University (http://birds.cornell.edu/LNS/) for permission to use many of their excellent field recordings, in addition to my own. I also wish to thank the staff of Americans for the Arts and Wintergreen Performing Arts, as well as zoologist Chris Hobson of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation; Ed Clark and Kathy McNair of the Virginia Wildlife Center; Dave Topper, technical director of the Virginia Center for Computer Music at UVa; Connie and Joe Tasker, whose tower room inspired our creative process; and Robin Eastham, who does so much to support animals in the wild. Singing the Blue Ridge is dedicated to my mother, Dr. Harriet Evelyn Sommer Shatin, from whom I learned the miracles of the natural world and so much else. Singing the Blue Ridge was premiered by David Wiley and the Wintergreen Festival Orchestra on July 5, 2002, with mezzo Angela Horn and baritone Thomas Barrett. –JS
Year composed: 2002
Ensemble type: Orchestra:Orchestra with Soloist(s)
Instrumentation: 1 Prerecorded Sound (Tape/CD/Other)
Instrumentation notes: Mezzo, Baritone, Orchestra, Electronics made from animal calls