Jean Martin, Sharlene Wallace, Frank Horvat (photo bySharlene Wallance)

Musically Planting All Trees!

It’s been a while since harpist Sharlene Wallace and I shared an update on our collaborative adventure, Trees.Listen. We are over-the-moon exhilarated that we recently received a generous grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to complete the process of co-composing, recording, and sharing our suite of pieces for solo lever harp and fixed electronics! The CCA’s funding complements the previous funding we received from the Ontario Arts Council and a group of Sharlene’s students who commissioned one of the nine pieces, ‘Oak’. We are so grateful to all of our funders as their support now allows us to complete the project in its entirety!

Our suite is inspired by the enlightening book ‘To Speak for the Trees’ by acclaimed medical biochemist and botanist Dr. Diana Beresford-Kroeger. Diana possesses a unique combination of Western scientific knowledge and traditional wisdom from the ancient world. Orphaned in Ireland during 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 after a type of tree (emphasizing the significance of trees to the ancient Celts). The predominant musical note heard in each piece corresponds to the note named after a particular tree. For example, you will hear a lot of Ds in ‘Oak’ because the Celtic word for Oak is ‘Dair.’ This approach creates an additional 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.

Sharlene and I are implementing a unique multi-phase process to create this new music.

Phase 1 is to record samples/loops of Sharlene with our collaborator, Jean Martin. We first did this last fall for ‘Birch’ and ‘Hazel’…

Sharlene Wallace at the Celtic harp

Collaborators - Frank Horvat - Sharlene Wallace - Jean Martin

Then we recorded the loops for ‘Oak’ and ‘Pine’ in April, this time with Sharlene’s beautiful new custom-made harp…

Frank Horvat, Jean Martin and Sharlene Wallace

Recently, we completed recording the loops for the remaining 5 trees…
Jean Martin, Sharlene Wallace, Frank Horvat (photo by Sharlene Wallance)

In Phase 2, I use these samples as the foundation for composing electronic bed-tracks. Then, in Phase 3, Sharlene composes a live harp part on top of those bed-tracks.

In Phase 4, we convene to fine-tune the composition and record a demo. We have confidence in this process because we successfully completed Phases 2 to 4 for ‘Birch’ and ‘Hazel’ last November…

Sharlene Wallace and Frank Horvat recording demos for Trees.Listen

This was wonderful to do as it allowed Sharlene to present the world premiere performance of ‘Birch’ and ‘Hazel’ this past summer in BC…

Sharlene and I are excited to commence Phases 2 to 4 for the remaining seven pieces this fall. Following that, we plan to enter the studio to record the live harp parts in January, with hopes of releasing the album sometime next spring.

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 they deserve to be worshipped and protected. We are fortunate to have received 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 as Sharlene presents live performances.

Please stay tuned to my social media channels, blog posts, and e-newsletter for updates on our exciting project’s progress!


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