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Yosemite Distractions

for 8-channel playback, candy wrappers, conductor, audience

premiered February 8, 2003
The Eleventh Annual Ussachevsky Festival
Lyman Hall, Pomona College, Claremont, CA

Yosemite Distractions (or, “What I Did Last Summer”) began with field recordings made in Yosemite National Park in the summer of 2002. The magnificent sights of some of the largest trees and most spectacular rock formations on the planet were balanced by the quiet sounds of seemingly undisturbed nature. I marched off to far corners of the park, determined to capture peaceful woodland sounds, especially of the wind in the trees. I quickly discovered that despite the initial impression of solitude there were always distractions within earshot. As I held my breath in the hopes of bringing home a recording of the pristine wilderness, plane after plane lumbered its way into the field of perception. Distant automobiles could be heard occasionally, and once in a while a human voice shouted. Even close flying insects seemed an intrusion at first. Eventually I found myself listening more to the distractions than to the elusive sounds I came to capture. My initial thoughts had revolved around using only the purest natural sounds to make a piece of music, but I gradually came to hear the distractions and their interactions as interesting in their own right. The path of the ear’s attention to first a gentle breeze, then a nearby bird, then a distant motor, is akin to the experience of listening to counterpoint or background/foreground in a musical piece. It was just a small step to hand out loud candy wrappers to the audience, who will participate in tonight’s performance.