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Remaking a Forest, Oscar Bettison’s new orchestral work for the Oregon Symphony, receives its first performances in Oregon in late September.

Oscar Bettison has written a new 13-minute orchestral work, Remaking a Forest, to be premiered by Carlos Kalmar and the Oregon Symphony on September 27 with additional performances on September 28-30.

Bettison’s initial inspiration for this piece came from two concepts: the “Ship of Theseus,” an ancient thought experiment that asks, at what point does a ship whose rotting planks are being replaced become an entirely new ship, and the idea of “rewilding” a habitat that has been taken over for human use.

Halfway through composing, Bettison heard the shocking news of the fire at Notre-Dame, also a significant monument for classical musicians as the birthplace of Western polyphony. As news spread about its restoration, Bettison was once again struck by this idea of transformation and rebuilding, this time of the wooden interior of the cathedral, known as “the forest.” This event added a new focus for the piece, providing Bettison with ideas for the scoring that nod to bell and organ sounds. As he says in the program note, “Remaking an already heavily renovated structure to return it to its original state, rewilding a forest built by human hands, feel like fitting metaphors for this piece.”

The entire piece undergoes a gradual transformation as the opening slow solo lines grow into tutti sections with more power and momentum. Within these sections, Bettison explores the concept of “remaking” in the music through repetition and echoing between solo and sectional parts, as well as in a melodic thread that runs through the entire piece and gets altered as it is passed between instruments.

Remaking a Forest is the latest in a string of recent orchestral premieres by Bettison: Pale Icons of the Night for violin and orchestra was performed by Courtney Orlando and Alarm Will Sound at Peabody Conservatory and the Library of Congress in 2018, and Lights in Ashes, an orchestral reimagination of a movement from Bettison’s evening-long piece O Death, was premiered by the New World Symphony in April 2017.

>  Further information on Work: Remaking a Forest

Photo: Sarah Bettison

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