As previously announced here on my website, I am a recipient of an Individual Artist Grant through Saratoga Arts. The funding is allowing me to compose a set of concert pieces involving Adirondack traditional instruments. I will be exploring some of the various instruments used in Adirondack traditional music so that I may compose a set of new concert pieces which makes use of these unique instruments in a chamber music setting. The working title for this collection of short pieces is Adirondack Sketches.
With this set of pieces, I seek to create both an homage to the traditional musical heritage of the Adirondack Mountain region, the region I’ve called home my entire life, as well as an exploration of the colors and musical possibilities that can result when combining these instruments and regional styles with that of more conventional concert instruments along with my own compositional techniques. That said, I am not looking to rearrange or even quote songs from this tradition, but to create new music in my own style while broadening my own compositional palette along the way. This will truly prove to be a journey… or, an Adirondack hike, if you will… one which I will share with you here along the way!
The first phase of this project involves a kind of ethnomusicological research. I’ll be meeting with musicians who are fluent in this tradition to talk about various instruments, techniques, and their use in the music of the Adirondacks, as well as possibilities for score notation. Some instruments I’ll be exploring include the guitar, banjo, hammered dulcimer, fiddle, Native American flute, and percussion instruments used in both folk and Native American traditions in the Adirondacks. As I become more familiar with these instruments and regional techniques, I’ll be surveying songs of the Adirondacks, both old and new, to hone in on the sounds that are reflective of their heritage. All of this is meant to inform my own writing and goal of creating something completely new.
The second phase of this project is naturally the composition of the pieces themselves. I’ll attempt to share thoughts and insights along the way as I work on them, making timbral, orchestrational, harmonic, and notation decisions and, hopefully, new compositional discoveries. All the while, no doubt, following up with the musicians I have met during my ethnomusicological conversations as more specific questions arise.
Finally, there will be initial readings, a few rehearsals, and a performance
of this new collection of works currently known as Adirondack Sketches.
Whether in the form of a formal concert or an informed reading session with commentary, I'll keep you all posted as to the time and location of this culminating event. I'll also attempt to blog about any insights gained during the rehearsal process.
Stay tuned, and join me on my musical hike into the mountains!
Saratoga Arts made this project possible with an Artist Grant funded by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.