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Tongues in Trees

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
—William Shakespeare

I like to run.  I often run on pavement, but more and more I run on trails.  Running on pavement is completely different than trails.  It is enjoyably consistent, but noisy and polluted.  Running a trail is infinitely varied, and the natural colors, smells, and energy of nature speak deeply to me when I’m pushing my body.  I often compose my best music on long trail runs. 

The first movement of Tongues in Trees reflects my experience running on pavement.  Horns, sirens, the puff of exhaust, and the regularity of pace are all there.  It’s a mechanized sound world, heavily influenced by computer music, and by man-made things in general.  And it’s fast.  The second movement reflects my trail running.  It is slower and more contemplative, with a prism of colors and melodies. 

I composed Tonges in Trees for the JACK string quartet on commission from the University of Iowa Dance Program.  Alan Sener provided the initial dance choreography.

—Payton MacDonald, 2011