11-12 September 2021
Brandon & Montpelier Vermont

I’m really happy to be collaborating with bassist Robert Black and composer/programmer Matt Sargent to make a piece for twenty-four basses in a grove of trees, called A Murmur in the Trees, after a line of Emily Dickinson. For the 11 September Brandon performance, the performers will be arrayed along the allée of trees on Park Street Extension that once lined the entrance to a golf course now long gone. The next day, the piece will be performed in Hubbard Park in Montpelier.

We are creating the music by treating a piece of birch bark as a musical score, where the lines on the birch bark are notes that are read at the rate of one-third inch per minute, which is said to be the speed at which plant signals travel.

Robert Black, a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, will be leading a group of bass players ranging from fellow professionals to local students in the half-hour piece, which will be staged so that audience members can move along the entire length of the allée. You get to shape your own unique experience of the piece and the place. The music will be quite soft (acoustic basses don’t project very far in the open air), and will mix with the natural ambience of a late-summer afternoon.

None of us has ever heard twenty-four basses playing in a grove of trees, and we’re thinking it might be kind of amazing. Basses were once trees, after all, and they might have something really interesting to say to one another.

It seems as though the ideal way to present the piece would be to do it twice, at 5 pm and again at 6 pm, with a poetry reading at 5:30 as an intermezzo — Middlebury poet Karin Gottshall will be reading — and we’ll also get to hear Evan Premo’s new song setting of the Emily Dickinson poem, which will be sung by soprano Mary Bonhag.

Come either at 5 pm or at 5:30, you can hear the basses either before or after the intermezzo, although if you come at 5, you can hear the basses twice, which will be different for you depending on where you walk and stand each time.

In Brandon, you can also come a half-hour early (i.e. at 4:30 or 5 pm) for a walking tour down Park Street, led by the Brandon Historical Society, that will tell you some cool things about this place at the time Emily D. was writing A Murmur in the Trees.

The project is co-produced by the wonderful New Music on the Point and Scrag Mountain Music. For more information and to make reservations (highly recommended) for the free event, please visit this ticketing page.