About the Grant

$16,000 to support River Opera (MAP 2012), a new music piece by Hugh Livingston

About the Project

Composer and sound artist Hugh Livingston, working with the ecological organization, Russian Riverkeeper, will present a large-scale three-act called River Opera at Warnecke Ranch and Vineyards in Healdsburg, California. Following the curving intersection of Brooks Creek and the historic Russian River through the heart of the Sonoma Valley wine country, the opera will move from glade to glade, using natural features to define the stage. Multiple musicians will be spread throughout the space, complemented by installations that reflect on the sonic and visual qualities of the river, while melding into the iconic oak forest.

After four years of collecting natural sounds and stories along the length of the river, Livingston will synthesize ideas of the layering of human sound with the strata of environmental sounds. This work explores dichotomous human identities in the natural environment and the sounds of the animal within us. The installations offer suggestions about a curation of the natural landscape—proposing ways of looking, listening, and using these observations to measure ecological change with artwork informed by science.
Rather than imitating birdsong,the vocal and instrumental lines suggest a layering and counterpoint thatelucidates the entire experience. Inspired by the traditions of naturaltheaters built into Renaissance garden design, the River Opera creates a new tradition for outdoor musical andtheatrical experiences.

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