Landscape Music is a composers’ network and online publication. Our mission is to deepen public appreciation of the natural world by providing a platform for contemporary composers whose music engages with landscape, nature, and place. Learn more.
Earth Year 2020
The composers of Landscape Music commemorate Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary with activities taking place throughout the year 2020. This initiative is a catalyst for concerts, videos, and educational events showcasing new music that reflects environmental themes at the forefront of our global consciousness. Project details to be announced in January 2020!
Landscape Music: Rivers & Trails
A nationwide series of concerts in Fall 2018 that commemorated the 50th Anniversaries of the National Trails System and Wild and Scenic Rivers Acts. 12 new works of chamber music were given World Premieres on concerts engaging 35 musicians in five different regions across the U.S. Learn more.
Editor’s Note: Landscape Music composer Ryan Suleiman contributes his first essay to LandscapeMusic.org.
This Saturday I’m looking forward to hearing the premiere of my new orchestra piece, Burning, commissioned by Pete Nowlen and the Symphony d’Oro in Rancho Cordova (Sacramento). The collaboration has been such a joy for me. The concert is billed as a celebration of the Earth, programmed alongside Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony No. 6 (one of my favorites) and James DeMars’ Lake That Speaks, two other works that engage with nature. The concert is also fundraising event for Whisker Warriors, a nonprofit that helps animals displaced by fires.
What does it mean for our art when the natural balance of the environment is in a state of crisis?
Beethoven, like many creative people, was deeply inspired by the natural world, talking walks through nature and retreating to the countryside to escape city life, recharge himself, get ideas. Scientific research has shown, as most artists have long known intuitively, that doing this is essential for one’s health and creativity. To state the obvious, there is so much fantastic music and art that is inspired by the wonder and beauty of nature. The clearest aspect of the beauty one finds in nature could be said to be the surface level. During a sunset, the sky is filled with vibrant colors. Mountains and trees in a forest create a striking form.
But of course, it is not just color and form that inspires us. It is the awe one feels looking at something so momentous as a mountain or an ocean and knowing that it has been here for millions and millions of years. It is knowing that it is part of a delicate balance and complex and dynamic web of life and death. Something bigger than oneself. It is also knowing that, as old as the mountains and the valleys are, they were literally completely different at one time, since they’re always changing. Or knowing that as seemingly timeless as the formations of California’s Central Valley are, they used to be an inland sea. It is the fact that nature provides nourishment and healing for us, but also can destroy us – it doesn’t care about us. It is the sublime. The reason we find inspiration in nature is because it contains both surface level beauty and these much deeper meanings because of our physical and spiritual connection with it. Continue reading →
New Year, new YouTube channel! We are pleased to announce a new online home for videos of our concerts, interviews, and all things LandscapeMusic.org and Landscape Music Composers Network.
We’re kicking things off with a full-length concert video featuring Citywater, Sacramento’s premier chamber ensemble for new music, as part of Landscape Music: Rivers & Trails: our Fall 2018 concert series, which featured five different chamber ensembles around the country in programs of World Premieres that celebrated the 50th anniversaries of the U.S. Wild & Scenic Rivers and the National Trails System.
Citywater’s Landscape Music: Rivers & Trails program was presented by Visions of the Wild, an environmental arts festival, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Vallejo Community Arts Foundation, with support from the National Park Service. The concert was given at the Empress Theatre in Vallejo, CA on September 23, 2018.
Watch the full concert below, or visit our playlist to see individual videos of World Premiere pieces by Landscape Music composers Nell Shaw Cohen, Linda Chase, Ryan Suleiman, Ben Cosgrove, Christina Rusnak, Rachel Panitch, and Libby Meyer.
Editor’s Note: Composer Christina Rusnak writes her fourth essay for LandscapeMusic.org.
Last October, Nell Shaw Cohen, Stephen Wood and I met to discuss the feasibility of a developing a concert series to celebrate the 50th Anniversaries of the Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Trails System. Eleven months later, concerts are premiering in Vallejo, CA (9/23); Atlanta, GA (9/29); Houghton, MI (10/4); Portland, OR (10/7); and Boston, MA (11/3), as part of Landscape Music: Rivers & Trails concert series. My music is being performed in all locations except Boston. Determining what river or trail I would write about was easy—2018 also marks the 175th anniversary of the Oregon National Historic Trail, and I live just 12 miles from the trail’s end.
The Oregon Trail, and our near-mythological familiarity of it, is fraught with controversy. Claimed by both the British and Americans, the land was actually controlled by the indigenous inhabitants who had no idea what was coming. The emigrants who traveled the 2,170 mile Oregon Trail began their journey in Independence, Missouri—skirting the northeastern edge of what is now Kansas and traveling through Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho into Oregon, although none of these states actually existed until decades later. The hopeful settlers traveled through “Unorganized Territory” into Oregon Territory. While most people dispersed along the way to settle within east or south of Oregon Territory, the route officially ended at Willamette Falls—the second largest waterfall (in the U.S) after Niagara. About 20% of emigrants, over 80,000, followed the trail to the end. Continue reading →