Penn’s Woods: Autumn Equinox

If you look deep enough you will see music; the heart of nature being everywhere music. ~Thomas Carlyle

A few days ago, I made a presentation at a national music conference on my “A Year in Penn’s Woods” project. Having to encapsulate my work in 25 minutes pushed me to review what I’ve done so far, create a succinct presentation of my project, and produce a short video demonstrating some of my musical and visual ideas.

Wetland habitat, western Pennsylvania

Wetland habitat, western Pennsylvania

Pressure can be useful for inner clarification; working on the presentation led me to review the hours of audio and video recorded so far, assess the quality of the work, and decide on technical and artistic refinements to the process. I originally expected this project to be completed in a year’s time, but have found that to be unrealistic. I’ve added another year to the timeline, but what I now realize is that I love doing this work and in actuality, I may be pursuing this project for many years to come. There is great joy in being in nature, listening to the sounds, seeing the beauty, and feeling deeply connected to the world around me. I’ve coined the music I am attempting to compose as “eco fusion” – the integration of the soundscape of the natural world with composed music.

Here is my first experiment in combining the sound of birds, insects, frogs, and other denizens of the western Pennsylvania habitats with visuals filmed during this year’s autumn equinox. The soundtrack music is designed to support and enhance nature’s orchestra without overwhelming it. While the musical pieces in “The Year in Penn’s Woods” project will vary from orchestral to small ensembles to electronic soundtracks, ultimately my goal is to be an interpreter of what I see and hear in nature, rather than to merely illustrate it. As I emphasized in my conference presentation, I want to join this band! I want to write for this orchestra! This is a first step. Enjoy! (Click on the video to play, or click on the Vimeo link to watch in full HD)  If you have a problem viewing the Vimeo version, here is a link to a smaller mobile device friendly version on YouTube.

All text, music and video ©2013 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

Read more about the genesis of this project in Wild Sounds.

No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace,
As I have seen in one autumnal face. ~John Donne

A special thanks to Joan for pointing out that it is the autumn equinox rather than the autumn solstice.

38 thoughts on “Penn’s Woods: Autumn Equinox

  1. Pingback: Music makes it better | Reflections on Digital Media & Culture

  2. When I first read this post, I was on my iPad and couldn’t watch or listen, but I came back, today and am so thrilled that I did. This is so beautiful and enthralling. It has the sound, feel, and quality of one of those excellent BBC nature documentaries. On a completely selfish note, I found myself imagining reading my poetry to such a beautiful backdrop of sound and images. You must be so proud of this endeavour. And so you should be!

  3. “I took a walk at dawn”, “created the space between”, “the liminal space” . That’s how I reach your blog (which I am very thankful) after I returned from a retreat this weekend that started with the talk on “liminal space” and a mention of Richard Rohr’s articles.

    Wonderful music and nature video.

  4. Stunning. I watched the video twice and closed my eyes during the third time to listen as well. I love what you’ve done with this piece and I get why adding time to allow your work to deepen and change shape is a vision that will be very rewarding. One of my favorite paintings about life and the elements is Thomas Cole’s Voyager (4 paintings) and it took him a decade to paint them, if I’m not mistaken. There is a richness in those paintings that only time could have added. Bravo, my friend.

    P.S. I just noticed that I could like you on Facebook and I have done so.

    • Thank you, Eleanor; your encouragement always means a lot to me. This video was a turning point for me, I think, a new way to think about what I do. I love Cole’s work but wasn’t familiar with his Voyager paintings – wow! I just took and look and now they are on my list to take a long look. And thank you for the Facebook like!

  5. That was a lovely video both in pictures and music. I think you are very lucky to be able to appreciate and capture nature around you and to be able to compose lovely music to go with it.

  6. I think this can be tricky, tricky ground and I’m sure you’re aware of that. And you succeed. Your piece so smoothly supports the video, without seeming extraneous. I would go you one further with the descriptions above – that you will neither illustrate nor interpret, but rather synthesize something new as you become the sounds around you. That you won’t need to join this band because you are already part of it, so your writing will become more and more seamlessly integrated into it. Because it’s already one thing – if I can make that leap without being tediously preachy! I’m glad it’s turning into a long term project!

    • Ah, Lynn, you always amaze me! Thank you for your astute comments and words of affirmation. Yes, secretly, I think that synthesis is the goal and I have the distinct sense that as I continue to work with this material, it will be a life changing experience. Thank you.

  7. What a marvelous blend of music, ambient sound and video, Lynn! And that blend is perfect–just the right amount of each to create a product that is surely greater than the sum of its parts. Experiencing it is marvelously evocative and I very much look forward to more.

    • Thank you for your generous comments, Kerry! You have been an enormous influence on me regarding gathering images in the field, as well as an important source of advice for same. Putting it all together in a small project was a critical step for me, as I am beginning to sense what I am really working with and what I need to do more of. I’m so glad you enjoyed this project, the first of many, I hope!

  8. Just lovely, Lynn; I couldn’t help but imagine how very healing these images and sounds would be for residents of assisted and memory care facilities, and in hospices. Reminds me, too, of Thornton Wilder’s lines for Emily in Our Town: “Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every,every minute?” The Stage Manager replies that saints and poets do, some of the time, maybe, but I think all artists offer us this gift: seeing the world, again, and for the first time, and allowing its utter beauty to permeate our spirits. Thank you, Lynn. I can only look forward to more.

    • Thank you, Kitty; it is always wonderful to have you stop by and comment. I think the sounds of nature are very healing and your idea for use in a healing center is a good one and something to consider as I proceed. I’m still in the experimental phase for composing with these sounds and finding my way “in” to the experience, but taking this first step was helpful as I continue to gather sounds and visuals for the project.

  9. I wonder how many musical pieces nature has inspired, but I’m sure many. No matter a time or place, one aim of music is to paint a picture through instrumentation. In terms of a fusion and the video, I envision a new piece about the moon starting as it ducked behind the cloud … melodic, not ambient. Oh well … just my thoughts.

    • Frank, you are so right about nature inspiring musical pieces – there seems to a deep connection there. I decided to keep the music in the ambient realm for this little piece but the piece itself may change over time. This was me “getting my feet wet” with the process. However, you gave me an idea for next week’s post, which is the challenge of finding my aural “place” in nature’s orchestra 🙂 Extra credit, my friend!

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