Over The Shoulder

Payette_Lake_HBIt is one month today since we performed “The Territory” at Chamber Music Northwest.  A month seems like a good amount of time for a pause.  Long enough to let things settle down-not so long  that forgotten what all the fuss was about.

The “inevitable post-project letdown,” –which always catches me by surprise no matter how many years I’ve been doing this–was delayed this year.  The day after the final performance at St Mary’s Academy  I went right into solo papa mode so my wonderful wife, who had been shouldering the whole “run-our-daily-lives-while-my-partner-pursues-his-artistic-destiny” thing for far too long, could take a little restorative camping break.  Not surprisingly, my son Malcolm and I went the other way. We rolled out to Seaside and threw down at some skee-ball, bumper cars and arcade games.

After that I jumped right into The Shed, our PSU Intensive Summer Jazz Camp.   Four days of  all jazz all the time, 9 AM to 8 PM.  Did I say it was intensive?  Not that I’m complaining. We had some great young players, and it is inspiring to to be in the music with a bunch of people from sunup to sundown.  Needless to say I forgot all about post-project letdown for those four days.

No sooner did we turn out the lights on The Shed, than I got in the car and drove to  McCall, Idaho for a family vacation on the shores of beautiful Payette Lake, which I was privileged to enjoy thanks to the generosity of  my colleague Jeff Baker.  His family’s “cabin” – a euphemism that borders on the silly- right near the water is like a mountain paradise.  We chilled, we swam, we read books, we played foosball, we paddle-boarded, we sat in the sun, we ate ice cream, and then chilled some more.  And for a week I didn’t think about much of anything.

After a quick trip to Seattle the following Monday– (The Bolt Bus feels suspiciously similar to Greyhound when it is completely full, and the wi-fi conks out, as it did on both my trips) –and my “summer” was finally ready to start. And damned if the “inevitable post-project letdown” didn’t pick that exact moment to mosey up and slap me upside the head.  Surprise.

I’m happy to say it has done its dance and left the building–just in time to commemorate the one-month anniversary of “my big project.” And in the space left behind, I’m feeling  ready to look back at the endeavor so far. I’m also feeling energized to think about what is next- which is turning out to include some pretty awesome opportunities.  So it is time for mapping again. Time to sharpen the tools, check supplies, scout out new ground.

Meanwhile, here is a link to a recording of the 1st movement “Hymn to the Four Winds” from the performance at Kaul Auditorium.  Thanks to Matt Snyder for an awesome job of live recording.

http://www.instantencore.com/work/work.aspx?work=5074269

Words

Chief_JosephI did an interview today with radio host and Portland writer Lynn Darroch on the jazz radio station KMHD.  Lynn posed the question of how I went about trying to capture the idea of territory in music.  The process for me is threefold.  First I need to find a story that I want to tell, a seed of inspiration.  Then I sit and listen to for the musical seeds that might come from reflecting on those stories.  The fun part for me is then looking for a point of view, much like a writer or a film maker would do.  Trying to find a place from which to tell the story.  For me this place is often discovered through words- whether text of lyrics I’m inspired to write, or  those of others.

This post has  some words that found their way into The Territory.  It has the practical purpose of letting whoever might be interested see the lyrics to those vocal movements of the piece, since there was not room for these in the concert program.

One figure whose words inspired me was the Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph.  Whether or not  Joseph was a great leader of the native people, or a prop of the US government is a matter for debate.  I think we are fortunate, however, that many of his words, which resonate with some profoundly wise thoughts, have been preserved.

One statement that inspired me was made to him by his father, Joseph the Elder, on his deathbed.  As is so often the case, the father charges the son with taking up the burden that he can no longer carry. I knew when I read these words that I wanted to use  them in the piece.  They provide the text for the verse section of Part 3: Chief Joseph’s Lament.

“My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.”

I was also inspired by Joseph’s famous Surrender Speech from October 5th, 1877

“Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

Together these two statements provided the impetus for the refrain of this movement.  That this man, whose spirit was broken, might in giving up have sown the seeds for the future.

Chief Joseph’s Lament

wallowaSo many miles
into the long ago…
All that was wild
courses below the ground.
So many hands
take what they do not own.
Scatter for years
all that our blood has sown

So many miles
into the long ago…
When we were wild,
rising to run the ground.
Sky father smiled
down on these bleached bones
Taught us to fly
carried away one by one.

Welcome to the Territory

rainforestThe Territory is ground, water, sky, and everything in between.  It is what was here before you came and what will be here after you are gone.  It is the bones, the sweat, the blood, the dreams, the blessings, the harvests, the floods, the tears, the rocks, the roots, the broken branches, fallen leaves, and forgotten paths, It is the songs of bug, bird, blizzard, wagon wheel, salmon, elk, beaver, and berry. It is the bank of the creek, the bed of the river, the stump in the ground, and the memories of the elders.  The territory is the whole story–told and untold.- Darrell Grant

On July 6th & 7th, I will give the premiere performance of my composition “The Territory” the product of a year of research and writing around the themes of connection, art and place.  I thought it would be fund to share some of the background, inspiration and discovery that inspired me to explore this idea of territory. Over the next few weeks, I”ll be posting those thoughts on this blog, as well as some videos that  were created by Rebekah Phillips for Chamber Music Northwest, that share insights into the creation of the piece.

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The Territory: A Suite by Darrell Grant

Mvt. 1 – Hymn to the Four WindsterritoryMap
Mvt. 2 -Daybreak at Fort Rock
Mvt. 3 -The Missoula Floods
Mvt. 4 -Chief Joseph’s Lament
Mvt. 5 -Rivers
Mvt. 6 -Stones into Blossoms (Dedicated to Nola Bogle)
Mvt. 7 -Sundays at the Golden West
Mvt. 8 -The Aftermath (Interlude)
Mvt. 9 -New Land

featuring
Darrell Grant, piano
Brian Blade, drums
Joe Locke, vibraphone
Steve Wilson, saxophones & flutes
Clark Sommers, bass

with special guests
Hamilton Cheifetz, cello
Marilyn Keller, voice
Kirt Peterson, bass clarinet
Thomas Barber, trumpet

Inside the Territory Part 1