In wine they have a concept called “terroir”– that mix of dirt, rain, sun, wind and water that makes one vineyard’s grapes taste different from another’s.
Is is possiblty the territory shapes its artists, too. Seeps into our tunes and our dreams, inspires us, connects us–whether we are native or transplant. It runs deeper than genre or musical style. When you love a place, its story can’t help but make its way into your own, and you can feel its current in the work.
Part of it is Geography. It is the land, the rocks, the rivers. In the cascade watershed the interface of land and water defines us. The verdant, fertile soil laid down over millenia, the great river Columbia that is the lifeline of our region. The peaks- Hood, Adams, St. Helens, Rainer and the others- stand as spiritual monuments grounding us and fueling our imaginations.
The geological narrative that has been playing since before humans arrived frames the stories we live out on the territory.
Case in point
15,000 years ago most of the western part off Montana was covered by Glacial Lake Missoula, a prehistoric lake that measured about 3,000 square miles and contained about (500 cu mi) of water. It was held up by an ice dam on the Clark Fork River. The periodic rupturing of that ice resulted in the Missoula Floods (also known as the Spokane Floods or the Bretz Floods)– cataclysmic floods that swept across Eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Gorge about every 55 years during a 2,000 year period. Scientists have found evidence of at least twenty-five massive floods, the largest discharged a flow 13 times the size of the Amazon river. The cumulative effect of the Missoula Floods was to excavate 50 cubic miles of sediment and basalt from the channeled scablands of eastern Washington and transport it at 80 miles and hour downstream to the Willamette It carved canyons and made the Willamette Valley one of the most fertile places on the planet. After the rupture, the ice would reform, creating Glacial Lake Missoula again.