A multifacted creative project drawing upon the disciplines of music, ecology, and Native American traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).
Creative interdisciplinary approaches in the arts and sciences are increasingly vital as we work to confront the most complex social and technological problems of our time.
In 2015, I commissioned composer Asha Srinivasan to write a 10-minute work for oboe, electronics, and natural sounds, based on the writing of plant ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer. We were both inspired by Kimmerer's 2013 book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.
Listening to the Songs of Plants
with ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer and composer Asha Srinivasan
to honor the world premiere of
Braiding: Lessons from Braiding Sweetgrass
for oboe, electronics, and natural sounds (2017)
Read the transcript HERE
Braiding represents a major addition to the emerging body of new music concerned with climate change and deep ecology. Indeed, as the worldwide movement for sustainability gains urgency, many artists and scientists are staking new territory at the intersections of music, acoustic ecology, soundscape studies, and environmental science.
This project draws upon ideas from the emerging field of ecomusicology, defined by ethnomusicologist Jeffrey Todd Titon as “the study of music, culture, sound and nature in a period of environmental crisis.” As Dr. Kimmerer said in her recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, “We will need to enlist artists and poets, storytellers and musicians to remind us of what we love, of what we value, what makes us deeply happy as humans; for the most powerful transformations are motivated by love.”
In celebration of the world premiere, I invited my collaborators, Asha Srinivasan and Robin Wall Kimmerer, to the University of Arizona as visiting scholars to engage with various constituencies of students and members of the Tucson community. Specifically, a unique relationship was forged with the Tohono O’odham Community College, which sponsored an ethnobotany exploration and performance of the piece.
University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music
Tohono O'odham Community College Earth Day Celebration
2017 Conference of the International Double Reed Society — Appleton, WI
University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana
Bowling Green State University
Bay View Music Festival
2018 National Conference of the College Music Society — Vancouver, BC Canada
Braiding was featured on CBC Radio in a full-length interview with Dr. Kimmerer in 2020.
In 2021, the piece was included in a virtual listening exhibition through OCAD University's Onsite Gallery (Toronto, Canada).
This project was funded through a collection of state, university, and departmental grants:
Arizona Commission on the Arts 2017 Artist Research & Development Grant
UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry — Director's Discretionary Fund
UA departmental support from: American Indian Studies, Creative Writing Program, College of Fine Arts Fund for Excellence, and the Fred Fox School of Music.