Friday, June 27, 2008

RMNP - Artist Residency - Day 12

Well my 2 week residency is almost over. One more night and I check out by noon tomorrow. Final thoughts or grand statements about art and nature will come later.

For the time being, I am very pleased to be nearly finished with my 2 minute horn fanfare. After searching through many of bad ideas, I found something I like and am pleased with the piece. It will be pretty wild to hear 8 horns play my music. Since they don’t have to balance with any strings or other winds, it will be loud.

This piece is a specific response to my time in RMNP. It is the official piece that I will offer the park as a document of my residency. The piece does not have a title yet but it was inspired by a particularly wonderful drive to the Alpine Visitor Center on Trail Ridge Road. We went up around 7PM last weekend and experienced the sun setting on the higher parts of the road. In all my life, I have never watched the sun set from such an elevation. It was the most incredible and warm/orange/intense light. So my piece is a reflection of that late alpine light. Hopefully next week I can get CU horn faculty Michael Thornton to play through portions of the piece to see how it lays on the horn.

I hiked to Mills Lake yesterday. This was one absolutely great hike. Great views the entire way and a huge variety of terrain and landscape. Mills lake is probably the most beautiful RMNP lake I have yet hiked to. I am thinking of hiking to the Loch tomorrow to check out another lake.

I will be sad to leave but happy to be back with my wife and daughter.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

RMNP - Artist Residency - Day 9

Another productive day in the mountains. Good progress was made on my piece for string quartet with 18 winds. Unfortunately I threw out everything I did on the horn fanfare yesterday. I’m going to start from scratch tomorrow.

Took a short hike to the top of the hill behind the cabin. Must have been at least 1000 vertical, maybe 1500. The view was extraordinary. Passed an elk skeleton on the way down.

Last night after I was done working I watched a couple of episodes of Top Chef Season 2. Boy do I love that show. It certainly is a cruel competition when they deliberately set up the contestants for failure with an impossible task and then judge them harshly when they don’t perform miracles.

Monday, June 23, 2008

RMNP - Artist Residency - Day 8

This morning I turned my energies towards a 2 minute fanfare for eight horns. CU prof Michael Thornton will conduct the premiere with the CU horn ensemble at a national horn conference in late July. As part of my residency at RMNP I am supposed to deliver a piece of art to the park within a year that they can use to promote the Artist-in-Residency program. With visual artists this is a much simpler task. For my own part, I thought a horn fanfare inspired directly by my stay would work well. I will likely be able to offer a recording the park can use on their website and it is also quite likely I can arrange for the CU Horn Ensemble to perform a concert in the park next summer that will include the fanfare.

After my wife and daughter departed this morning, I committed to two solid hours of brainstorming ideas for this horn fanfare. I went through idea after idea and discarded almost all of them. I wanted some idea that captured both the grandeur of these mountains but also a bit of the terror or frightening strength. In the last ten minutes I came up with an idea I was excited about. Now on my lunch break, I am less convinced it is “the” idea to carry this two minute piece. To be continued this afternoon…

After my two hour work session, I took a walk above the Allen White Cabin. I wanted to climb the hill the cabin sits on and see where it goes. First thing I passed was Mr. White’s actual writing studio. It sits some 100 feet up the hill from the main cabin with even more spectacular views. Boy this guy had it all. He had a main cabin, two cabins for his kids, and a private writing studio. All within the heart of what became one of the most magnificent National Parks. This set up has now been firmly planted in my susperstar composer fantasy world.

The rest of the hike was great but cut short by one fierce looking storm traveling across the valley towards my hill. The hill rose rather sharply so before long I was up high and exposed. The first drops of rain sent me scrambling and now my knees are a bit sore.

Back to the horn fanfare…

Sunday, June 22, 2008

RMNP - Artist Residency - Day 7

Yesterday evening my wife and daughter drove up for the weekend. My daughter loves it up here and goes nuts with all that is new. She is so happy running around the porch. This afternoon my sister drove up from Denver to spend one night. After a finally successful dinner of rice and beans, we all drove up Trail Ridge Road for the sunset. We had an amazing trip. Many of the crowds had left for the day and the sun between 7:30-8:30PM was just above the horizon of mountain peaks. It was an incredible orange light that touched only the highest elevations. We saw lots of elk and were able to take our closest photos. We passed a group of serious photographers on a random rock outcropping. They had tripods and long lenses and were all huddled together. We figured they must be watching something incredible like tap dancing rams. We pulled over and discovered it was a photo class that was shooting rocks…

I can’t believe half of my residency has ended. The time spent in nature and away from the rest of the world has been great. I am sure I will think back to this often through the most stressful times of next year. Creatively, it has also been very good. As I am starting new pieces, there is the constant burst of activity only to decide the idea is no good. After several days, the two movements I am working on are starting to take shape and the rhythm of writing these pieces has emerged. I’m praying for a very creative final week.

RMNP - Artist Residency - Day 6

My daily morning hikes have been wonderful. I’ve hit the trail between 8-9AM which beats much of the rush. I’ve been focusing on 5 mile round trip hikes so I can finish quickly and not get too tired for the rest of the day. The morning air is spectacular with routinely cloudless skies, cooler temperatures, and great smells.

So far I’ve done Bierstadt Lake, Cub Lake, the Pool below Fern Lake, Emerald Lake, and Sprague Lake (warm up on the first day). Emerald Lake is by far my favorite with two smaller lakes on the way up and spectacular views throughout the route.

I am absolutely inspired to make the effort to come up to RMNP to hike more regularly this fall.

Interesting occurrences while hiking…

-numerous tourists hiking without any water

-one hiker with sandals amidst the snow fields near Emerald Lake

-three scientists doing research at Emerald Lake that had to arrive by 6AM every morning

-one hiker talking on his Bluetooth ear piece making dinner plans while his companion walked silently behind him

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rocky Mountain National Park – Artist-in-Residence: Day 4

Well, it was a moderately productive day…

I took my morning hike and made it to Cub Lake. It was a nice trip but the lake is definitely nothing special by RMNP standards.

Back at the cabin, I proceeded to start over on everything I worked on yesterday. Now its almost 7PM and I am not really pleased with anything I wrote today. Somehow these less productive days seem imperative for the very productive days. I just wish I could have hiked the whole day while still having the effect of a less productive day.

Yesterday afternoon brought through a couple of thunderstorms. Fantastic visual as I watched the whole sky while bolts of lighting struck distant mountains. The sort of thing you see in movies…

A coyote waltzed in front of my porch last night.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rocky Mountain National Park – Artist-in-Residence: Day 2

Careful when you cook beans at altitude…

When I first got to Rocky Mountain National Park I knew I wanted to make a big pot of rice and beans. It seemed sort of romantic to make rice and beans while cooped up in a mountain cabin. Sort of traditional sustenance…

So I bought a bag of black beans and soaked them almost 18 hours. Then I boiled them for nearly three hours. I also cooked up some bacon, brown rice, onions, garlic, tomatoes, Mexican spices, and chilies. It smelled absolutely great and I had a nice big bowl before sleeping at 10PM.

It turns out that the beans were very undercooked and I woke up today with the worst stomach ache and yes, some gas. It seems that high altitude (low boiling point) and hard water (mountain well) make for a tremendously long cooking time for beans. Do you think canned beans and rice still qualifies for back country rice and beans…

After a very late start with the creative activity I bounced around between four projects I am starting this week. I quickly remembered that such unfocused creative time is hardly productive for me. I need to start to structuring my creative time in distinct blocks aimed at specific projects.

I did get a very nice start for my piece for string quartet with 18 winds. This piece will premiere next March with the Tackas String Quartet and the CU Wind Symphony. The movement I started writing is titled “A Tent for the Sun”.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rocky Mountain National Park – Artist-in-Residence: Day 1

Yesterday I arrived in Rocky Mountain National Park to begin a two week Artist-in-Residence position. Many of the National Parks have artist cabins which are available to a variety of creative artists for two week creative stays.

In RMNP, the cabin is the Allen White Cabin located in Moraine Park with an exquisite view of the whole valley at Moraine Park.

I plan to blog my experience over the next couple of weeks so stay tuned.

For the moment my plans include beginning sketches for three pieces, writing a fanfare for 8 horns, daily morning hikes, and a bit of quality reading.

So far the wildlife count has been very high. After arriving yesterday afternoon with my wife and daughter, my daughter and I took a walk across the giant meadow. Halfway across we realized we were walking towards over 100 grazing elk. We got a bit closer and enjoyed their company for some time. It was hard to convince Kaela that they were elk and not “doggies”. This morning we took a short walk around Sprague Lake and upon driving out of the parking lot we were stuck for a few minutes as more elk sauntered just a few feet in front of the car.

If any local people stumble upon my blog, my first public talk will be tomorrow (Tuesday June 16) at 7:30PM in the main visitor center along Rt. 36.