Landscape Music Announces “Earth Year 2020” Initiative

Landscape Music Earth Year 2020 logo
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 new works, performances, music videos, and community events showcasing new music that reflects environmental themes at the forefront of our global consciousness.

These projects highlight work by members of Landscape Music: a stylistically diverse, international collective of composers and composer-performers whose music engages with landscape, nature, and place. Learn more at

Earth Day is commemorated annually on April 22. The first Earth Day in 1970 is credited with launching the modern environmental movement and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event. Learn more at Earth Day Network.

Earth Year 2020 builds on Landscape Music’s 2018 collaborative initiative, Landscape Music: Rivers & Trails, which commemorated the 50th​ Anniversaries of the National Trails System and Wild & Scenic Rivers acts. That project catalyzed 12 new works of chamber music and a nationwide series of concerts engaging 35 musicians in five different regions across the U.S.

An overview of planned Earth Year 2020 projects is provided below. Details and additional projects will be announced throughout the year at, and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. To be notified of major announcements, including the release of free streaming music and video, please join our mailing list.

Inquiries about Landscape Music and Earth Year 2020 may be directed to Nell Shaw Cohen, Director,

Featured Projects


Citywater performs Landscape Music

Sacramento’s premier new music ensemble, Citywater, performs at Visions of the Wild Film and Arts Festival presented by the U.S. Forest Service and Vallejo Community Arts Alliance.

This all-Landscape Music program will present a diversity of musical interpretations of environmental themes and cultural perspectives on nature. Full list of featured composers to be announced.

Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 4:30pm, at the Empress Theatre, Vallejo, CA.



Wind Power

A music video highlighting sustainable energy through the beauty of wind power. New music for harp and soundscapes by Anne Vanschothorst will be paired with poetry by Danielle Danker and footage by Pjotr van Schothorst of wind turbines in Zeeland, Netherlands.

To be released on April 22, Earth Day.



Blueprints for Hope

A new work for concert band by Katherine Bergman in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, commissioned and premiered by a consortium of seven different ensembles. Activist victories are easily forgotten, but their stories can be looked upon as blueprints for the next wave of change and the next generation of activists. More information.

Performances in Spring 2020; score available for purchase in August 2020.



Dead tree branch with title "Sentinels"


Michael Futreal

Project by Michael Futreal

A short film with animated photography, scored with new music evoking the secret, quiet majesty of the Earth’s “sentinels”: overlooked elements of a landscape that take on an animistic, mythic character. In Michael Futreal’s Sentinels, these watchers watch us—and urge us to consider our obligations to other living beings in this world.

To be released in late Spring 2020.



Gotland, Sweden

Visby, Sweden, and the California Desert

Christina Rusnak

Project by Christina Rusnak

Two new works for chamber ensembles by Christina Rusnak, reflecting environmental values in dynamic, contrasting landscapes.

Christina’s self-directed residency in March 2020 at Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park will inform a new work drawing attention to the critical need to protect desert landscapes as the planet warms. In May, her residency at the Visby International Centre for Composers (Visby, Sweden) will give rise to a work exploring connections in environmental values between Scandinavia and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.


Spy Pond
Site-Specific Performance at Spy Pond

Linda Chase

Project by Linda Chase

A site-specific, concert-length piece by Linda Chase at Spy Pond in Massachusetts. In a call to climate action, instrumentalists and vocalists at the pond’s shore, and in four canoes floating across the water, will create an immersive musical experience. Protestors carrying signs will be integrated into the performance, while the community will be invited to participate by creating poetry and soundmaps in response.

Performance in May 2020 in Arlington, MA.


Details and additional projects will be announced throughout the year at, and on our Facebook and Twitter. To be notified of major announcements, including the release of free streaming music and video, please join our mailing list. Inquiries about Landscape Music and Earth Year 2020 may be directed to Nell Shaw Cohen, Director,

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Drawing Inspiration from Nature in a Time of Ecological Collapse

Image: “Wildfire” by Annie Bissett. Courtesy of the artist. More information.

Editor’s Note: Landscape Music composer Ryan Suleiman contributes his first essay to

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

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Landscape Music: Rivers & Trails Concert Video on YouTube

New Year, new YouTube channel! We are pleased to announce a new online home for videos of our concerts, interviews, and all things 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.

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Composing the Oregon National Historic Trail

Oregon Trail map

Editor’s Note: Composer Christina Rusnak writes her fourth essay for

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

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