General Information

a view of the performance area


Program Notes

Arboretum is a special piece of music to be performed and heard in natural surroundings. It is my fifth outdoor composition. Its first performance was supposed to take place on April 2, 2009 in the Kiva Plaza on the University of New Mexico's campus by a combination of instruments and prerecorded sounds. However, at the last moment, that performance had to called indoors, due to cold weather, rain, and wind. The present performance at the Webster Arboretum will therefore be the piece's first outdoor performance.

Arboretum will be played by the OSSIA music ensemble, a musical institution that has premiered many of my other outdoor performances.

The relationship between music and nature has long been a theme in my music, stemming from my time spent hiking in natural surroundings and my interests in non-western religion, philosophy and aesthetics. I share this concern with many other composers--such as Beethoven, Bartok, Ives, Messiaen, Cage, the British impressionists, Stockhausen, R. Murray Schafer and others--who have forged deep connections between music and nature.

Enjoying Arboretum

Arboretum is not just concert music played outdoors, even though it is written for musicians who ordinarily play concert music. The music is less formal than concert music and employs special notations to permit various degrees of improvisation. The pacing of the piece is often relaxed, spacious, and sometimes ritualistic, in contrast to the social rhythms of music in most cultural settings.

The experience of this music is like watching sunsets, clouds passing, or sea changes. Sometimes there are abrupt changes, like a sudden gust of wind or a startling animal sound. Musical attention is akin to noticing and enjoying the subtle differences among flowers, leaves, plant morphology, birds, animals and insects and their sounds.

Arboretum is therefore a slowing unfolding, mainly gentle musical experience. Like the different trees in an arboretum, the music presents 50 different evolving harmonies, each lasting one minute with occasional interludes of mysterious noises or drones. The composition lasts approximately 58 minutes.

The audience is invited to wander around the performance space and listen to the music from different perspectives and orientations. Some may want to sit down and listen to the piece as it slowly evolves, while others may wish to enter and leave the performance from time to time.

Shunryn Suzuki roshi, a Soto Zen master, beautifully encapsulates the nature of this music in the following quotation. "Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony." (Suzuki S., 1970. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Weatherhill, New York. 142pp. (reprinted 1986), p. 32)

site last updated:
Sunday, August 1, 2010