The Sequoia Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (13:50) 2008
Composed for the Vientos Trio during 2008-2009 composer residency.
Four Movements based on the writings of John Muir...
I. Sequoiadendron giganteum: The Big Tree
"Southward the giants become more and more irrepressibly jubilant, heaving their massive crowns into the sky from every ridge and slope, waving onward in graceful compliance with the complicated topography of the region."
Tree Interlude One Movement II. "A crowd of hopeful young trees and saplings..."
"But here for every old storm-beaten giant there are many in their prime and for each of these a crowd of hopeful young trees and saplings, growing vigorously on moraines, rocky ledges, along water courses and meadows."
III. The Three Graces
"Groups of two or three (sequoias) are often found standing close together...They are called "loving couples," "three graces," etc... By the time they are full-grown their trunks will touch and crowd against each other..."
Tree Interlude Two
Movement IV. The Noble Trees
"...the Big Trees (sequoia gigantean), the king of all the conifers in the world, 'the noblest of the noble race.’"
- Quotes taken from The Yosemite, 1912
by John Muir
Text is in the public domain.
The Sequoia Trio was written for the Vientos Trio, a wonderful group of musicians in Los Angeles, for whom I am serving as composer-in-residence during 2008-2009.
I had returned from a trip to Sequoia National Park in July of 2008 and was inspired by the great trees. I knew that these would be the basis for the new work, and in searching for a voice of these great trees I turned to the words of John Muir for inspiration.
Each movement takes a quote about these trees from John Muir’s book The Yosemite and uses it to inspire the music. In movement one the words that struck me were “graceful compliance” in that, although these trees are massive, there is still something gentle and approachable in their fluid motions. The opening waving pattern creates the gentle breeze as the growth of the tree starts in the bassoon, moving through the clarinet and all the way to the top of the trees with the oboe. “A crowd of hopeful young trees and saplings…” is sassy and jazzy, giving the young trees the kind of resilient attitude that they must maintain in order to survive. “The Three Graces” plays on the idea of the three instruments in the ensemble and Muir’s own reference to Greek mythology, or the goddesses of charm, beauty, and creativity. I loved the idea that these trees might stand next to each other, yet separately, for years, but eventually their trunks will touch and meld together. Each instrument takes its turn becoming part of this conglomeration by leaving the tutti staccato patterns with a held note and then launching into the melody while the other two continue the staccato pattern of growth. Finally in “The Noble Trees” the instruments play a hymn-like tribute to the largest living things on earth, ending with remembrances of the opening movement and their gracefully waving branches. Following movement one and movement three are “Tree Interlude One” and Tree Interlude Two.” These represent the individual voice of a tree, allowing it to speak out across the forest and tell us its story and the history it has seen for thousands of years.
Thanks to the efforts of John Muir the Sequoia Trees are available to us in all their splendor and I hope that The Sequoia Trio gives you a glimpse at their majesty and inspires you to listen to the trees’ ancient wisdom.