An outdoor composition for multiple ensembles


Robert Morris

Program Notes

SOUND/PATH/FIELD was written from January to August 2006 on a commission from the Society for New Music in celebration of the Society's 35th anniversary. Funding for the commission was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Hanson Institute for American Music, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and Syracuse University.

The composition lasts 90 minutes and is scored for four choirs, three large instrumental ensembles, contemporary music ensemble; the first performance also included organ and puppet theater. The ensembles are stationed and play independently at various locations in the performance space, moving from one place to another over the duration of the piece. Two optional may occur indoors in a nearby performance hall: a concert piece for organ entitled Canonical Minutes and a composition for sextet, entitled Society Sound. The entire piece is organized and coordinated by a cycle of notes that emanated from chimes in a nearby bell tower. The audience is invited to move freely from one event to another as the piece unfolds.

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. Following my works PLAYING OUTSIDE, COMING DOWN TO EARTH, and ORACLE, SOUND/PATH/FIELD is my most elaborate outdoor composition.

In conjunction with the premiere of SOUND/PATH/FIELD, a symposium on the topic of Music and Nature was held at Syracuse University on September 23 and 24, 2006. The symposium was organized and sponsored by the Fine Arts Department of Syracuse University and featured eighteen papers by international scholars in Composition, Ethnomusicology, Musicology, and Music Theory.

In the week before the performance I gave a audio/visual talk on SOUND/PATH/FIELD at the Music Department of SUNY Geneseo, the Eastman School of Music, and Setnor School of Music, Syracuse University. To download the text of this talk click here.

The Premiere Performance


Syracuse University Chimes Masters (Kerry McDermott)

Syracuse University Women's Choir (Barbara Tagg, conductor)

Syracuse University Singers (John Warren, conductor)

Syracuse University Symphony Orchestra (James Tapia, conductor)

Syracuse University Wind Ensemble (John Laverty, conducting)

Syracuse University Symphony Band (Brad Ethington, conductor)

Westhill Singers, Westhill High School (Joseph Buchmann, conductor)

Syracuse Children's Chorus (Barbara Tagg, conductor;
Deborah Cunningham, assistant conductor)

Society for New Music Ensemble (Neva Pilgrim, director;
Cynthia Johnston Turner, conductor)

Hendricks Chapel Organ (Olukola Paul Owolabi, organist)

Open Hand Theater (Geoffrey Navias, director)

For more information on the Premiere performance, click on the topics below.

program of events

radio announcement

explanation of the musical notation

score snapshots

pictures of the performance

short video clips of the performance