Wild Shore music marks centennial of Park Service

Now in its fourth season, Wild Shore New Music has the special task of commemorating the National Park Service.

Founded by three Alaskans, Wild Shore is a group of professional musicians based in New York. For the past three summers, they have returned to Homer, where they perform pieces by primarily living composers.

Acknowledging the inability of art to perfectly portray the natural world, this group goes about honoring the natural world in another way: exploring our relationship with it, said artistic director, pianist and Homer native Conrad Winslow.

“Artists have tried in so many ways to directly reflect in the most precise way the reality of what they’re seeing, and inevitably, they will fail,” he said. “So you find artists and composers taking different avenues toward negotiating one’s place in the natural world … We’ve curated a program that reflects a kind of variety of approaches.”

One of these approaches is purely personal, similar to a diary entry, as Brian Simalchik, composer of “Overlooks,” a piece to be performed by Wild Shore, explained it.

Another way to express the natural world is to create a place in music, Winslow said, as is done in the pieces “A Place Toward Other Places,” to be performed by Wild Shore this weekend, and “McLaren’s Summit,” which was played at Wild Shore’s Tuesday noontime show at Land’s End Resort. Though both pieces may contain allusions to different aspects of the natural world, like a bird or the wind, they are still inherently different, creating an entirely new place within the music.

The goal of Wild Shore was to build a program reflecting these various approaches to the natural world, and in doing so, change the way we see nature — a mission similar to that of the National Park Service.

“Both the park service and this music teaches people how to see the world in a new way: How to look at it more carefully, how to listen to it. And that’s done by taking a step back and putting it in sort of an intermediary language,” said Michael Amico, knowledge director for Wild Shore.

This “intermediary language,” as Amico calls it, is an art which Wild Shore reflects seamlessly, both through skill and movement as a group, and choice of music, which came about in a unique way this season. Putting out a call for new musical scores relating to the expression of the natural world, the group received more than 160 submissions, of which they picked eight.

Of these selections, Amico said, “The choice of music is rooted here.”

“It’s exciting because we’ve developed our mission here in Homer, and we’re presenting the premiere of the program in Homer before we take it back East,” Winslow said.

The premiere of the program will take place at Bunnell Street Arts Center at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 13 and 3 p.m. Sunday, August 14. Wild Shore will then head East for two performances at Federal Hall in New York City, a national park itself, and then the National Mall for the performance celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service.

Also of note is the public discussion that will take place on Sunday, August 14 after the performance at Bunnell. Amico will lead a discussion titled, “What Do We Make of Music,” which will include two of the composers who wrote pieces that Wild Shore will perform, Stephen Lias and Ben Cosgrove, and also Greg Dudgeon, the superintendent of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

The group will have one more informal performance in Homer at 8 p.m. tonight at Down East Saloon, where they will share the stage with Johnny B., Dylan Smith, Tyler Munns and Ian McCulloch, with a community jam session to follow.

For more information about the group and a complete list of events, visit wildshore.org.

Mattea Peters is an intern writing for the Homer News.

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