Terra Infirma, performed by Fulcrum Point New Music Project with conductor Stephen Burns
Instrumentation: Amplified Soprano Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, Violin, Viola, Cello, Percussion, Electronics
Commission: Michigan Technological University
Rozas Center for the Performing Arts
Michigan Technological University
Note: Image credit: NASA/JSC
The Great Lakes, formed from receding glaciers, and holding 20+% of the volume of the world’s surface freshwater, provide habitat for all manner of flora and fauna in the massive region they anchor. They are also vital to many human activities, from hunting and fishing to the transport of goods through a massive series of purpose-built channels and locks, to a huge variety of enjoyable activities: camping, hiking, water sports, and more. Many population centers have grown around them as well, all depending on the bounty they provide. Unfortunately, such growth, as well as the introduction of invasive species and pollution from developments far beyond this region, has caused degradation of the lakes as well as the habitats they provide. While there are increasing efforts to protect the lakes and the life they support, stiff challenges remain. Organizations such as The Great Lakes Research Center and numerous others are enriching our understanding of the multiple aspects of the region and what needs to be done to ensure its long-term health. And a host of organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, and many, many others, are working to protect our natural world and its inhabitants. I am also grateful to organizations including the Macaulay Natural Sound Library, the Sound Library of the US Park Service, naturalists such as Lang Elliott, and individuals such as Dr. Bernard Wessling who has done such outstanding work on whooping crane conservation.
Terra Infirma features animals most at risk of extinction. However, the near-term projection of climate change dramatically expands those in danger. Each of the three movements, built upon the cycle of the seasons, features the sonic interplay of the calls of animals and those of the human-engineered instruments. Such interactions range from cooperation to hindrance, from discord to harmony, from adaptive to challenging. Each movement also reflects the abundance of the natural world and the dangers facing it; the calls of animals eventually recede, with only the sounds of the lakes remaining. The challenges are daunting. The question remains: can we mitigate our effects so that humans are not, ourselves, a dire pandemic for the rest of the earth’s inhabitants and the planet itself?