Two Pieces for Solo Bassoon
Song for the Water Spirits
I wrote this piece to honor the spirits of my local waters. In Native American spiritual traditions, everything in form has a spirit, and couldn’t exist in form without that spirit. The Earth changes that my Native American elders have long prophesied are accelerating, and the elders teach that the elementals are deeply tied to human emotions and activities. The longer that humanity refuses to wake up and acknowledge the elements, the rockier the changes will get and the more intense our collective ride through this portal will be.
I feel a deep kinship with Water, and wanted to say Thank You for being, Thank You for allowing us two-leggeds to continue to live. How often do you acknowledge and thank Water? Water is Life.
Yellow Poplar With Birdsong
In late winter of 2021 while I was still recovering from long COVID and a subsequent hysterectomy, I received a most surprising email from the music director of the Knoxville Symphony, Aram Demirjian. He asked me if I would be willing to take part in Knoxville’s innovative 1x1 commissioning project, which paired a living composer with one of the orchestra’s principal players to produce a short 1-3 minute solo work that would then be recorded and broadcast over the internet. I said YES PLEASE! The KSO put me in touch with acting principal bassoonist Zach Millwood, and we spoke about our love for nature one cold sunny afternoon.
I pondered as I wandered with my dog on soft spring evenings, making friends with a big yellow poplar, offering tobacco and listening for the voice of the tree in my dreams. Richard Powers’ amazing magical novel The Overstory was also very much with me, and I felt my local trees helping and healing me. What did they want from me? I felt like I was being offered a huge clue to the mystery of why I had been allowed to survive everything I’d been through. It was clear to me that I had very nearly died, and was still wondering what to do with myself in the face of extended unemployment, dicey health. chronic pain, and an uncertain future. Here it was: the Big Yes. Write music. Keep going. I decided to write Zach’s piece as inspired by my friend, the Yellow Poplar tree. Also, why does the bassoon never get to play bird music? It’s always the flute with the bird songs. Enough: the bassoon can too be birds. We have lots of woodpeckers in North Carolina, and the biggest is the pileated woodpecker. They’re present here, along with songbirds. The sun shines, the tree’s leaves glimmer, and the birds sing. The opening and closing melodies are the tree’s songs, and the middle section is birds, calling through the forest; some are close, and some are farther away. Deep thanks to Georgiana Vines and the Knoxville Symphony for commissioning this piece.
Duration of Yellow Poplar app. 3 min 40 seconds