In collaboration with Harlan Hodges
Immersive sound design, lyricist, photographer, programmer, web developer
October 12 2019 St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Amarillo, TX
This is a subjective expression of my direct involvement with the work. It is not my intent to blur the intentions of the project in any way. Visit towardthesouthplains.com to learn how you can experience the work for yourself.
On February 8, 2016 composer Harlan Hodges who has been like a brother to me was, let’s see what the right word is…inspired; invoked; reduced…to write what would become the beginnings of Toward The South Plains after a phone call in which I would reveal that I was making my way back towards the south plains from Los Angeles after my father had been killed in an act of gun violence the previous afternoon.
Over the years the work has widened from focus on this singular circumstance to the all too common occurences of malice of the sort happening every day in our communities.
Centered around the cyclical nature of existence, cycles of the moon and of water, stages of grief, the transmigration of the soul, and the constant presence of change in our lives, the work is highly conceptual and multidimensional in scope. In its entirety it contains not only 30 pieces of written music for piano, organ, orchestra, and choir, but field recordings and photographs from across the southwestern united states, sound design,video, and animation. Plans for geomapped interactivity are being discussed as well.
The cyclical nature of the moon is central to the theme of this work. Over 700 images of the moon were obtained from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio and sequenced in Max. One lunar cycle is to be projected over the span of the piece but since the timing requirements vary drastically per performance, multiple methods of advancement have been programmed at the input level.
Over several trips through the southwestern United States, a series of photographs is being curated alongside audio field recordings and GPS data. These photographs correlate directly to one of nine major musical movements that outline the literal journey across the landscape. I’ve employed a Hasselblad 503cx 6x6 medium format film camera for this task.
The introspectivity of my involvement as a lyricist proved to be personally healing. Being a product of the West Texas landscape myself, I had spent many years just wanting to leave. My recent inclination has been to think that without the recognition of the gross body being a product of and very much belonging to the landscape, the spirit of the land will pull and plague the individual until one discerns in a very visceral way that no matter where the body resides, it is but an aggregate and thus carries biological memories that can be even more elusive than the subconscious.
Verse has been set throughout the work in both English and Latin in order to contrast the subjective and objective scope of this phenomena. The lyrics to “Sacred Ground”, for example, are themed heavily after traditional christian hymns common for the culture in West Texas albeit more familiar to an older generation.
Could it be sacred ground That we wander Estranged this soul be bound Led asunder A spirit ‘neath is found Ancient wonder Possess this sacred ground We discover Behold this sacred ground Tears fall over Beneath the stones be found Holy water Consume us sacred ground Lest we wander Eternally resound Bear within us home
“Sacred Ground” © 2019 Harlan Hodges (ASCAP) Lyrics © 2019 Ryan Todd Garza (BMI)