Wandering in the Wilderness, Music as a Mediator Between Humans and the Environment

My recent musical compositions and sound pieces explore the connection between the human condition and acoustic ecology.

Using these works as a focal point, this paper investigates this connection and the unique function of musical practice as a cultural storage cell for latent listening skills essential to any future reconciliation between humans and the environment. I will examine the idea that the listening techniques essential to our early hunting and gathering ancestors, subsequently adapted to the activity of listening to and creating music, are being re-utilized to listen to the natural world with more refined attention. Additionally I will discuss how an exploration of the pre-historical roots of music are relevant to my own compositional practice and to the furtherance of a future application of the ideas of acoustic ecology.

Using my own interviews with David Dunn and Cheryl E. Leonard, I will explore the relationship between speech and music and how musical practice serves as a proxy for our learned ability to listen to and communicate with the millions of species that co-exist with us. I will also discuss ways in which contemporary composers­represented in the membership of musical communities exemplified by such organizations as “The Acoustic Ecology Institute,” and “Deep Listening”­ are aided by improvements in audio technology and the concepts of acoustic ecology, and how their work is contributing to a greater understanding of the natural world, and a renewed public concern for the environment.

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The Influence of Mysticism and the Science of Sound on Ruth Crawford Seeger and Music for Small Orchestra Mov. One

This thesis explores some of the influences on Ruth Crawford Seeger's compositional process in the years between her study with Adolf Weidig of the Americcan Conservatory (of music) in Chicago and her departure for New York in September of 1929 and how they affected teh composition of Music for Small Orchestra (1926). Many of the ideas that Crawford encountered through her contacts in Chicago formed the artistic basis for the strong compositional style that distinguished her as an American innovator before her studies in New York. Music for Small Orchestra is representative of this period prior to her immersion in the rigorous composititonal aesthetics of "dissonant counterpoint" and the beginning of her long association with Charles Seeger that began in the 1930's.

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Morton Feldman the Abstract Artist and the Lens of Criticism

Morton Feldman was a self-described “well educated autodidact”2 composer, an avid collector of modern art and sometimes critic of the visual arts (he contributed to Art News and Art in America and also wrote essays for exhibition catalogues)3. His approach to composing was deeply influenced by his associations with the avant-garde of American visual artists in the 1950s. The elimination of symbolism, the simplification of gesture, the avoidance of marked contrasts4 found even in the earliest iterations of Feldman’s music, owe much to the Abstract Expressionists and more specifically the Color Field artists. By adopting procedures particular to the Abstract Expressionists, he approached the composition of music as those visual artists might have approached painting a canvas. He was in many ways more akin to his peers in the visual art world than he was in to his contemporaries in the music world. Though his lifelong friendship with composer and philosopher of the arts - John Cage was a defining relation hip for him, it can be argued that Feldman was more directly preoccupied with the artistic problems that his friends Philip Guston and Mark Rothko were intrigued by, than the musical problems his associate composers were.

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