An ongoing series for chamber ensembles +/- electronics that explores the effects of global warming on places I’ve called home

Each Piece of Place explores the effects of global warming on a particular place that I – and many, many others – have called home by superimposing different timescales: geological, human, biological, tidal, and others. Musically, these are articulated with rhythms, phrasing and larger forms to create a feeling of events unfolding simultaneously on vastly different timescales. Each piece creates time and space to perceive these massive processes on multiple levels: personal, societal; cognitive, emotional; biological, geological. The music strives to go beyond these boundaries toward a more integrated human-bio-geological awareness.

Pieces of Place: Catskills

for string quartet + electronics
duration: c. 18′

“Now, and in the future, it is difficult to envision any improvement in our ability
to reconstruct the primeval state.”

– Robert P. McIntosh, “Forests of the Catskill Mountains, New York” (1959)

Pieces of Place: Catskills explores displacement as the result of environmental change, and the struggles for life and death that inevitably take place in the process. Boreal forests are gradually disappearing from the tops of the Catskills as temperatures rise and precipitation patterns change. Over the next decades and centuries, many of the life-forms that make up this unique biome will gradually be displaced by other flora and fauna. The string quartet and electronics take turns masking and displacing each other in a constantly shifting soundscape.

Pieces of Place: Chesapeake

for flute/piccolo, clarinet in A, violin, cello, double bass, electric guitar, synthesizer, percussion and electronics
duration: c. 9′

Pieces of Place: Chesapeake is based on the northeastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, where I spent many childhood summers. The piece is structured around three superimposed timescales: geological, human, and tidal. A sparse and continuous electronics part runs throughout, providing a sonic horizon. It was created by stretching a recording of waves at high tide and superimposing that recording at different octaves. This reduced the pitch by one, two, and three octaves, and reinforced a low A fundamental with an upper partial of A 436 (Hz). For this reason, the ensemble tunes to A 436 instead of the typical A 440.

Tributaries I

for double bass
duration: c. 7′

Tributaries I imagines the flow of water, organic materials, and pollution through the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Large-scale agriculture, livestock farming, deforestation, and heavy industry made the Chesapeake Bay one of the most toxic bodies of water in North America by the mid-1900s. While cleanup and restoration efforts are underway, the Bay remains heavily polluted. Tributaries I can be played as a standalone work, or as a connecting movement in the Pieces of Place series. Tributaries flow between Pieces of Place like bodies of water.