Music in the American Wild

Emlyn Johnson: In the Fall of 2014, my now fiancé, Dan Ketter, and I went for a hike in Letchworth State Park. It was a really beautiful day in the Fall
and we just started talking about how great it would be to play in such a beautiful place. I found out that National Park Service is having it’s centennial in 2016. That seemed like just enough time to start some kind of crazy project. Daniel Ketter: It was really inspiring, sort
of like a camping trip on steroids because we have so much gear but I’d say it’s definitely been worth it. Emlyn Johnson: We are so use to playing concert halls that are set up acoustically for our instruments to project, here in the wild and the outdoors of course it’s very different. Daniel Pesca: The outdoors have meant a lot to me through out my life but it’s never something that I’ve addressed so directly in my music and this was a chance to really sort of mediate upon my experiences in nature and um, give a musical outlet and a musical expression in voice to them. Emlyn Johnson: Our very first national park of the tour was Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. The first day we played in an area called the Rotunda which is a really giant cavern that acts as a natural concert hall. We also played in two areas that have very low ceilings that we’re just unbelievably quiet. Thirty stories underground and no sound except what we’re making and the recordings sounded really beautiful from down there. Daniel Ketter: We we’re kind of an exhibit on a cave tour so these people may or may not of know that there was any music going on in the cave that day. And there was some people that got out their phones and tried to record something while they were walking by and there were other
people that stopped and listened for thirty minutes or an hour so there’s a lot of different levels of engagement with something like that. Daniel Pesca: One of the things I liked very much from being there was seeing the sort of audience that these events attract. People that might not be acquainted with classical music and then they hear about these events and they wander in and maybe they discover something very new and different then they’d seen ever before. Emlyn Johnson: We also did some recording at Purchase Knob in the Smoky Mountains and that was a great place, a whole different environment because we had this, you know, kind of three hundred sixty degree mountain view. Just something about hearing birds chirping up there, seeing dragonflies whizzing by, that just adds a lot of character to the music, I think. Daniel Ketter: What’s amazing is that I go sit and I listen to the recording that we made and I get goose bumps all most every time I listen because I feel like I’m back there again. Daniel Pesca: It helped me think about audience in a very different sort of way. It’s a wonderful project in which a composer has an opportunity to address many different kinds of communities. Emlyn Johnson: These parks are not only there to be conserved and protected in terms of the land but there also there to inspire and there’s just so many creative opportunities for us as artists and listeners.

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