Press Release

Eastman School of Music composer writes music for performance in Webster Park.

Webster Park, on the shore of Lake Ontario in Webster, New York, Northeast of Rochester, is hardly the place you'd expect to hear music performed. Yet Robert Morris, a progressive concert-music composer, has conceived of a composition for orchestra and soloists to be played there outdoors. The piece, titled Playing Outside, is scored for over fifty musicians scattered in the park's woods and trails playing music and sounds. The piece is exactly 100 minutes long and will be performed twice on Sunday, September 30, 2001 at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. (The audience should try to arrive 20 minutes early to allow for parking and walking into the Park. Driving directions are available on the Playing Outside web page:

Morris is chair of the Composition Department of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and has lived in Rochester since 1980. He got the idea for this ambitious work while hiking on the Park's intricate web of ski-trails in the summer of 1996. "I was so fascinated by these wooded trails I made a map of them with a friend. I felt a connection between these trails and the kind of music I write, so I thought it would be interesting to bring them together in a musical composition. But this music would not be concert music per se, but something like ambient music, where the music blends into the environment--in this case into the sounds and sights of the fields and forests of the park."

The composition will be produced by Ossia, an organization of young composers and performers studying at the Eastman School. Ossia has mounted many important compositions of recent music by composers such as Steve Reich, John Cage and Gyorgy Ligeti. It asks the Rochester community of musicians and other artists for proposals every Spring for possible production on their concert-event series.

"My piece would have been impossible to bring to performance without Ossia," says Morris. "That's why I didn't think seriously about making it happen until 2000 when I proposed it to Ossia. The musicians will be asked to play in various places in the Park, both independently and in groups, sometimes moving from one location to another. Since Ossia has produced many exceptional and novel pieces and events, I am able to count on them to provide musicians who are enthusiastic about playing new music that expands the boundaries of what music can be and where it can occur."

And this piece does push the envelope on what one might call music. The audience will be given a program of events with a map of the places in the park where musical events will take place and when. Some people may choose to stroll through the park to hear the music and sounds; others may wish to be escorted by guides to the main musical events. Various kinds of improvisational music, played by soloists as well as full ensembles, will be heard on the paths and in the park's woods and fields, from its high points and hollows. No one, including the composer, will be able to hear all of the musical sections in one performance. The idea is to provide a rich assortment of musical experiences celebrating the relations between people and the natural environment.

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site last updated:
Wednesday, September 19, 2001