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Music in the Wilderness

Snow falls in thick, white silence. In the darkness of pre-dawn my feet don’t make a sound. I find a sheltered place underneath a large pine where I can wait. I am waiting for the elk to come, the vast herds of this vibrant wilderness that bring with them life for all the creatures that inhabit this unique valley. I have heard their music before, but this time I’m waiting to capture it, to share it with those who have never ventured here. I wait in silence, the snow accumulating on my clothing. I rub my hands together to try to fend off the chill that is slowly overtaking me. Then it comes, the long arching call of a bull elk, quietly it fades into the darkness. Then unexpectedly, another, this time closer, I can hear the grunt of breath at the end. A chorus ensues, the calls fade one into the other, echoing into the darkness then suddenly, silence. Ghosts in this snowy wilderness. My heart is loud in my ears, adrenaline burns through my veins. This is music for the soul.

Wilderness Song in which I used elk calls and other ambient sounds from different seasons throughout the year to capture the changes that occur within the vocalizations of the elk. The elk bugles used in this excerpt were recorded in the YaHa Tinda in November at dawn at the end of the rutting season. These bugles are longer and softer than the bugles heard during the height of the rut and are used more as localizing calls.

It has been a few years now since this marvelous encounter, and since that time I have been searching to capture the music of nature. It isn’t a difficult search, all one must do is open one’s ears. Music is everywhere, in whatever time and place one’s feet may trod, music is there. The song of the robin that pierces the silence of early summer mornings, the deep pulsing of the river that runs under a thick coating of ice in the middle of winter. But there is a music that is hidden deep within the wilderness, music that reaches the ear and therefore the heart of only a few, and it is this music I long to capture.

Loons and Birds, recorded in Northern Quebec in July at dawn.
Elk and Fire, recorded in the YaHa Tinda in April at dusk.

The fire crackles, I have been watching this herd for hours and it is only as dusk now begins to fall that they begin to move. The elk gather together and move off the hillside down into the valley where I am waiting. There is an ocean of bodies passing in front of me, and as they move they speak together, quiet chirps of varying pitches. This is how they ensure the herd stays together as they move, this is their song of peace. As the dusk gathers and the herd moves on I pack up my gear. But there is one more song that awaits me, a pack of wolves sing their hunting song, it echoes through the hills, their voices mingling together, the high pitched voices of the young, and there, the deep low haunting howl of the alpha male. A chill runs up my spine and I try to capture it, but I am too slow and they are finished. Darkness has fallen now, and in silence tiny snowflakes begin to fall. How delicate this music is, how profoundly it affects the soul. This is what I want my music to portray, the message I want it to send. Listen, music is all around you, search for it, it waits for none and is there for all.

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