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The Blue & Green Project

Project Manager

Recorded: Tampa, Florida

Year: 2011

Ensemble:

Mark Neuenschwander (Bass); Tamara Danielsson (Alto Saxophone); Jeff Pinkham(Banjo); Luis Colon and Matt Zettlemoyer (Baritone Saxophone); Danny Gottlieb (Drums); Drew Wilkins (Electric Bass); Corey Christiansen and LaRue Nickelson (Guitar); Paul Keesling (Percussion); Per Danielsson (Piano); Jack Wilkins (Tenor Saxophone); Keith Oshiro and Tom Brantley (Trombone); Jay Coble, Sean Gehricke, and Wade Weast (Trumpet); MarimbaJon Metzger (Vibraphone); Sara Caswell (Violin); Elizabeth Nelson (Voice)

Inspiration:

The Blue and Green Project involved researching Appalachian Mountain culture and environment as the inspiration for a series of new compositions. The compositions combine the musical inspiration of American roots music—Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Mountain music, New Orleans traditions (the “Blue” element)—with the subjective inspiration of the Appalachian Mountains—the people, artists, craftsmen, traditions, and environment (the “Green” element). Each work has a story to tell, and an inspirational concept on which it is based.

Compositional Descriptions:

Death Rattle

Song of the Anvil

Mountain Watercolors

Two Views of the Mountain

River Run

25 Cents

Black Bucket Stomp

Death Rattle is a piece based on the “death ballads” found in mountain culture, generally unaccompanied songs about the topic which is part of everyday life in the difficult struggle for survival in the mountains. A set of words from various death ballads is used as an influence and is shown on the screen.

Song of the Anvil incorporates footage of master blacksmiths Bea Hensley and his son, Mike, from Spruce Pine, NC, demonstrating the “language” of the anvil, how blacksmiths communicate when forging hot metal into shape. Bea, now in his 90s, learned his craft from Daniel Boone VI, including the anvil communication which has been part of blacksmithing for thousands of years. This involves the master blacksmith “playing” the anvil in a musical fashion, in rhythm with the striking of the other blacksmith. The result is a set of rhythmic musical sounds, as Bea strikes the anvil on different sides of the hot metal at varying intensities that communicate to Mike on which side and how hard he should strike with his hammer. The music takes over from the video, in tempo and in the key of the anvil using percussion instruments to imitate and expand on the anvil sounds.

Mountain Watercolors is inspired by a number of paintings by Bryson City, NC artist Elizabeth Ellison. Melodic lines follow the flowing ridgelines, and instruments depict the mist over the mountains, the bedrock, and the changing colors of the seasons. Each of the three movements follow one of the paintings’ themes from left to right: a mountain theme moving to a cabin theme and transitioning to a front porch jam session—a bluegrass inspired romp which fades into the return of the mountain theme and into the morning sunrise.

Two Views of the Mountain hikes a mountain trail, from the open views of scenery, through the deep forest of rhododendron and hemlock, and back out into the open on the other side. The music uses similar materials in major and minor keys to depict the “two views.”

River Run. This musical journey takes you down a whitewater river adventure, moving from calm scenic waters, through gradually building rapids and Class IV and V whitewater, before finally spitting you out at the end of the run. Each improvising soloist must complete the “River Run” by navigating their way through the challenging musical obstacles.

25 Cents is an instrumental take on a haunting vocal piece written by mining activist and singer Sarah Organ Gunning called That Twenty Five Cents You Paid which describes the tragedy of a mountain family that sold their mineral rights to the mining companies for next to nothing. This is, unfortunately, an all too familiar story in the mountains. The words to the song are displayed on the screen, as the musicians perform a dark arrangement, musically describing the singer’s plea for the steam shovels not to disturb the graves of her mother and father.

Black Bucket Stomp is a New Orleans R&B based piece that uses musical elements from a Coal Miners blues song as thematic material and the “second line” street beat found in New Orleans musical traditions. Picture brass bands marching through the French Quarter—“Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!!”