My Summer Experience

Participated in EcoSono Institute (Anchorage, AK)

Cory Kasprzyk
Doctor of Musical Arts in Contemporary Music
Participated in EcoSono Institute (Anchorage, AK)

In June, I joined 10 participants and two faculty from around the world for the EcoSono Institute in Alaska. Some may wonder what sort of music program entails extensive time in mountains and the ocean, but this truly was a wonderful exploration of music and the environment. The experience overlaps with my artistic interests and research, which is particularly helpful as I enter the dissertation phase of my degree in the Doctor of Musical Arts program at Bowling Green State University.

Based at Alaska Pacific University (Anchorage, AK), we studied environmentalism, biology, orienteering, music composition, and ecoacoustics (i.e. abstracting environmental data and ideas into music using technology). In a beautiful but "deceptively dangerous" area, we made audio recordings of a variety of environments to inform and/or use in new compositions. The Institute enabled me to work closely with Matthew Burtner (University of Virginia), a major figure in ecoacoustics, and Daniel Blinkhorn (Sydney Conservatorium of Music), one of the world's leading acousmatic composers.

We explored many different areas by land and sea - natural sounds and animals, as well as the city, filled with a rich history, culture, and warm, generous people (e.g. Yup'ik, Iñupiaq). Many experiences were incredibly memorable. I maintained my composure on the rocky boat toward a Kenai Fjord glacier to experience a building-sized piece of ice calving. We recorded near a runway with huge commercial jets flying just overhead. I discovered, and had to immediately contend with, anxiety induced by volatile heights, as I climbed 3,510 feet to the top of Flattop Mountain in the Chugach Park while carrying microphones. My perspective has changed, and I also had good timing and took photos of a random engagement by a young couple on the mountain.

Much time was spent on outdoor recording sessions that involved up to 20 microphones, many of such amazing quality that I typically do not have access to them. It was a time of quiet; a time to engage with all present. Leaving the program, I have 110 gigs of photos, video, and of course, audio. The sounds vary greatly, including the bubble-net feeding of humpback whales, and a surprise appearance by a pod of orca. From the roar of hungry sea lions, to passing puffins, to 1000-year-old air escaping a glacier, to the sounds of a forest after midnight when the sun has yet to set - the experiences are captured and will be incredibly useful in my future work.

As a performance fellow, alongside percussionist/composer Casey McLellan, I led production of our final concert "with grace and aplomb." (Burtner) On saxophone, I premiered a work by D. Edward Davis and performed a piece by Blinkhorn with Burtner. Additionally, I composed a short work (i.e. Eagle River Study) for the well-attended concert, blending the sounds of a stream, ocean life, and the humming light in my room. The concert received some press, noting it "may be the most intriguing music concert in Anchorage this year, and perhaps the most restorative." (Mike Dunham)

Musically and personally, I view all life as equal - each tree, kittiwake seabird, parka squirrel, moose, human, and perhaps even the incessant mosquitoes. The EcoSono philosophy, to "go with purpose, move in peace, and arrive with an open mind" coincides with these ideas, framing what became a truly amazing personal, professional, and artistically rewarding experience. Partaking in this program, one becomes more aware of the inherent connection of all in an environment. There are no composition lessons quite like those taken in the wild.

(Posted August 26, 2013 )