Boosey & Hawkes (Hendon Music)
The Soraya, Northridge, CA
Steven Mackey, electric guitar / Delirium Musicum Chamber Orchestra
I grew up in Northern California and made many trips to and through the north coast redwoods with my family on my way to visit my older brother who lived in Humboldt County. The redwoods are California to me. I agree with John Steinbeck’s quote:
“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”
While it is true that the first reaction they elicit is “silence and awe” the seed in one’s psyche grows into something emotional and physical, which is when and where music begins for me.
This 20-minute piece takes these facts about the redwoods as points of inspiration:
• They are old – “Ambassadors from another time.” The oldest music I know goes back only 1/2 of a Redwood’s life. There are Redwoods that could have heard music from ancient Greece albeit from a great distance.
• Redwoods build communities which protect and nourish each other. They communicate through a shared root system organized in tree circles called fairy rings (an ironic name, given their girth).
• There is an entire ecosystem in the canopy of Redwood trees including soil hosting other plants and salamanders whose entire life is spent up there.
• It is mournful to ponder a planet that might eventually not support such magnificent organisms.
Red Wood is in two roughly equal 11-minute parts:
Part 1 – Primeval …
Part 2 – Fairy Rings
“In a beautifully conceived score that flows with a kind of natural ease, the guitar electrifies acoustic strings while somehow sharing kinship. ... Mackey celebrates how trees make him feel and makes you want to feel that way too.” —Los Angeles Times
"Mackey ends his piece with an aura that is part Ralph Vaughan Williams, part Led Zeppelin." —San Francisco Classical Voice