Frank Horvat, Jean Martin and Sharlene Wallace

Growing 2 More Trees!

If someone ever tells you that making new music is a solitary endeavour, don’t believe them! Case in point, my collaboration with Sharlene Wallace – we recently found out that a group of Sharlene’s students had banded together to commission an Oak tree in our Trees.Listen project, one of the pieces that will make up our collection for solo lever harp and fixed electronics. We got together yesterday at Jean Martin‘s studio to work on stage 1 of our creative process with Sharlene’s beautiful new custom-made harp for 2 more trees, the Oak and Pine!

Frank Horvat, Jean Martin and Sharlene Wallace

Our suite is inspired by the enlightening book, To Speak for the Trees, by acclaimed medical biochemist and botanist, Dr. Diana Beresford-Kroeger. Diana has a unique combination of western scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge from the ancient world. Orphaned in Ireland in her youth, she was educated by elders who instructed her in the Brehon knowledge of plants and nature.

The music that Sharlene and I are co-composing is based on different letters from the ancient Ogham script, a medieval alphabet that named each letter for a type of tree (this is how important trees were to the ancient Celts). The predominant musical note heard in each piece will be the note named after a particular tree. So in our get-together yesterday, we recorded a lot of Ds for “Dair”, the Celtic word for “Oak”, and then many As for “Ailm”, the Celtic word for “Pine”. This approach will create an extra spiritual connection between each piece, the tree and its designated letter. The overall tone of each piece is also inspired by the information and stories shared by Diana about each tree, each having its own unique musical character, just as each tree does.

Last fall, we completed our creative steps for the 1st 2 trees, Birch and Hazel, first recording harp samples at Jean’s studio…

Sharlene Wallace at the Celtic harp

Collaborators - Frank Horvat - Sharlene Wallace - Jean Martin

I then took those samples and used them as a basis to compose electronic bed-tracks. Sharlene then composed a live harp part on top of those bed-tracks. We then got together to add the final touches to the pieces…

Sharlene Wallace and Frank Horvat recording demos for Trees.Listen

2 pieces are done. 2 more pieces are underway. Sharlene and I are grateful to her students and the Ontario Arts Council for providing us with the funds needed to make these initial creative steps a reality. Later this fall, we’ll complete the suite with 5 more pieces and then record an album of all 9!

Sharlene and I hope that Trees.Listen supports Diana’s vision that trees are a fundamental part of our existence and survival on this planet and that they are something to be worshipped and protected. We have been fortunate to receive Diana’s enthusiastic support for our endeavour. She is a passionate individual who envisions a better world, with more trees!

We’re looking forward to partnering with Diana once the album is released and Sharlene presents live performances.

Stay tuned to my social media channels, my blog posts and my e-newsletter for updates on our progress with this exciting project!

Trees.Listen - Sharlene Wallace and Frank Horvat

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