The Nature Project:
works for cello with natural sounds
Cellist Madeleine Shapiro has developed “The Nature Project: works for cello and natural sounds,” an exciting new concert program that focuses on the natural environment. Long a cross-country skier, hiker, and environmental activist, Madeleine was interested in bringing these interests into her professional
The program emphasizes works that directly incorporate and interweave natural sounds into the fabric of the composition, and includes works that were written especially for the project. Many of the works are scored for cello with electronics, another of Madeleine's ongoing interests.
The Nature Project is ongoing. There are additional works that can be interchanged with the program below, and new works are continually being created, including works with video projection. Seven works have been written for Madeleine for this project since it's inception in 2005.
Madeleine has performed her Nature Project recital in numerous venues, including the Ear to the Earth Festival sponsored by the Electronic Music Foundation, the Miami Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Arts & Design (NYC) to
accompany an exhibition of works created from sustainable materials.
Judith Shatin's “For the Birds” for amplified cello and electronics (2005-written for Madeleine) is an homage to the birds of the Yellowstone region, as well as a play on John Cage's book of that title. The electronics use sounds of birds heard within the Yellowstone ecosystem, sometimes directly as they are heard in nature, sometimes digitally processed. Judith is presently the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor and Director of the Virginia Center for Computer Music at the University of Virginia.
“Fragments From Cold” for amplified cello and electronics by Matthew Burtner (2005-written for Madeleine) draws on the composer's Alaskan background. Taped sounds of snow and wind mix with delicate cello sounds and the performer's
breath. "Like a skier moving across the snow, I imagined the cellist sliding the bow across the surface of the cello. The performer's breath and the sounds of snow reveal contours of two terrains...the snow from the outside, the breath from within." Matthew is currently assistant Professor of composition and computer music at the University of Virginia.
Mexican composer Guillermo Galindo, presently teaching and working in San Francisco, uses taped, processed sounds of tigers found in a reserve near San Francisco, to create "Tres Tigres Tristes", a work that explores the moodiness of those animals. The composer writes:
“One day my friend Chris, who had worked at Marine World, took me to an isolated place in California where he took care of a group of retired Marine World tigers. I realized then, and without any prejudice or predisposition, that
having tigers in captivity could be an analogy to having tiger sounds in a recording. Both, the tigers in captivity and the recorded sounds are realities taken away of their natural context. In my piece, the blend of the cello as a
living sonic entity in dialogue with manipulated of recorded tiger sounds, enters a dialog between life and death, a narrative evoking imaginative landscapes and emotions in constant transformation within the mind of a tiger.”
The program also includes Axolotl for amplifed cello and live computer electronics by the pioneering American composer Morton Subotnick. Axolotl is Part I of Subotnick's groundbreaking work from the 1980's, The Double Life of
Amphibians. Subotnick has written:
“An Axolotl is a Mexican salamander. It is a transparent and delicate creature with two fillagree-like appendages, extending form either side of the body, which appear to float above it. These are it's lungs for the future ascent onto land...but the Axolotl never goes through the final stage of it's potential development... it never reaches air...it remains forever in water.”
The evening ends with "Degrees of Separation: 'Grandchild of Tree'" for amplified Golden Ball Cactus and electronics by Paul Rudy who writes the following about the work:
“The idea for a cactus and tape work came about when I heard a performance of John Cage's Child of Tree. I was immediately taken with the sound of the amplified cactus in particular. The relationship between natural objects and their unnatural extension is the metaphor which inspired Grandchild of Tree.” N.B. the performance does not harm the cactus!!!!