The 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.
The Territory: A Suite by Darrell Grant
Mvt. 1 – Hymn to the Four Winds
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
I was in Chandler, Arizona last week. On a September morning I stepped outside my friend’s house to make a phone call (long story about lack of cell-reception inside the house). I looked around. No-one to be seen. Admittedly it was 101 degrees, but that didn’t make the view of the deserted street in the new suburb any less daunting.
I wonder how this became someone’s idea of a city: Identical bland subdivisions stretching for miles and miles. Camouflage beige brick walls shielding them from the street. Each house a duplicate of the one next to it. 3-car garages in lieu of front porches.. It’s not a neighborhood, it’s a cluster of nondescript pods surrounded by five foot high walls. They are spacious and comfortable pods, no argument there–they have flat panel televisions, KitchenAid refrigerators, surround sound and all the modern day staples, as well as family pictures and homey touches. But they hermetically sealed to the outside. They have no shared spaces, no outward side of inner life, no color, no welcome. And they don’t make a community. Not even Identical CVS Drugstores on every other southeast corner and Mini-mails full of franchise chains on every other northwest corner can make it so.
This was not the vision.
Chandler was founded by Dr. Alexander John Chandler. In 1887 Dr. Chandler arrived in Prescott, the capital of the Arizona Territory as the first appointed veterinary surgeon to the region. According the Chandler Chamber of Commerce website: “Unfortunately, the entire southwest was experiencing a severe drought. Dr. Chandler found that he was unable to help the area’s cattle herds and resigned his post and made plans to move on to California. However, as he arrived in the small frontier town of Phoenix, a deluge of rain began to fall that halted all travel. Dr. Chandler watched from his hotel room as the desert blossomed into a fantastic array of renewed life. The doctor, moved by what he saw and the possibilities it foretold, reconsidered his resignation and canceled his departure. Seeing the great changes that the rain brought to the parched soil, Dr. Chandler began to learn about irrigation methods. Returning with the financial backing of two Detroit friends, Dr. Chandler formed the Consolidated Canal Company. When the Granite Reef Dam to the southeast of Phoenix was completed in 1908, water from the Salt River was available for all canals to the south. Thousands of acres were put under cultivation, but there was still not enough water to keep the land from remaining dry. In 1911, the Roosevelt Dam was completed, but each landowner was restricted to irrigating only 160 acres. Dr. Chandler was forced to subdivide his nearly 18,000 acre ranch and he began to advertise and marker his land to draw settlers to the area. He hired a city planner and an architect to design a planned community with spacious lots, wide boulevards and a town green unique to the Southwest.”
Ironically, Chandler was inspired by the city beautiful movement. A late 19th century idea that believed that a beautiful city would create harmony and improve quality of life.
So how did that vision become this?
Even more significantly, I ask myself, as an artist, how can community possibly flourish here, with no bridge to the outside world? How do I reach these people? Not with homogenized pop radio, cable television, NPR or Facebook–but with what is happening under there very noses. How do I draw them out of their pods to experience local music or theater? How do I put them in relationship to the painters, poets, potters, woodworkers, glass blowers and jazz musicians who could make their homes, their lives and their community richer.
Tell me. How do we build community in a place like Chandler? How do we get people to think outside the pod–If only as far as to add some color other than tan, beige or gray to their exterior walls? The desert can still bloom. But we can’t just leave it up to the flowers.
Here are some photos from the first gig of “On The Territory” at the Oregon Coast Music Festival in Coos Bay. Thanks to Jeff Turner for the great pix and to Jardin and Kristin at Black Market Gourmet for the great food, vibe, room, etc…