Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The last full day at Banning.


After four days of amazingly good weather and a few near misses, mother nature finally had had enough and dumped a mass amount of rain and unleashed a good deal of thunder and lightning as well. I awoke to the sound of thunder and though I had had a fairly wrestles evening as it was, I decided to get up and pack my things as I was planning to leave at the end of they day anyway. After grabbing a quick breakfast in town, I returned to the park to meet Randy Gordon, the park ranger and naturalist, in order to do a quick tour of the songpath for his final approval but by the time I arrived, the full fury of the storm had broken loose. This pretty much put the kaibosh on our little trip as well as on a preview tour I had planned with a group of school kids at East Central Community Ed. It did give me a chance to go across the street to East Central Community Ed (which is right across HWY 23 from Banning, and meet some of the folks I had been corresponding with leading up to my visit.

After the rain died down a bit, I did what will be the final hike I will take until I return to Banning in August. The rain persisted now and again and added a whole different dimension to the tour. The sound of the rain itself changed in unexpected ways along the path and as it became stronger and weaker, covered and then revealed subtle sounds the were present in the background. This also made the moments where the river was near much more dramatic. It also added to the existing water features and provided a few that had not been present on earlier hikes.

In a conversation I had with Randy earlier in the day while waiting for the rain to die out, we discussed a few issues that they thought of in reflecting on previous descriptions of what I planned to do. First, there are a few places on the trail they were concerned older hikers might have a problem with. I agreed that that could be an issue and we worked out a couple alternate routes that seem to work well. We also discussed the issue of rocks. There are parts of the trail covered in a multitude of loose sandstone and I had originally thought it might be a nice touch to use some of it to make noise but the more they thought about it they thought it might give hikers the impression that it was OK to remove and even throw rocks. We compromised on liming the use of these rocks to one specific location and using them in a way that merely moved them a bit farther down the quarry (not to give too much away) into the shallows of the river. I am lucky to be working with folks that know their parks so well and are enthusiastic about the idea. It would be easy enough for them to just say not to some of my ideas just to err on the safe side but they have been very generous with their time in helping me find solutions that work for artistic purposes while maintaining the integrity of the park itself.

We also discussed the idea of doing a "Serenade to the Quarry" one of they days when I have multiple musicians helping. I should explain. During the Song Path dates. I have a number of musicians who are available at varying lengths of time and there are certain overlaps (tbd still) so at certain times I might have 3 or more musicians joining me. Of course, they don't all need to be on the song path at once as I am striving to keep the path itself quite minimal in its utilization of man made sound (although the park itself was really made by man so in a way, it is all man made sound~~~). Last night at around 6, one of the musicians whom I have mentioned before, Chris Chelgren, came with me on the path and was, as I was at first, really obsessed with seeing how every nook and cranny, pit and valley sounded. What we found was that close up, these features sometimes made disappointing sounds in relation to their visual grandeur. I realized that this was mostly due to the sandstone itself being somewhat porous an therefor, it absorbs sound. We did realize however, that from certain vantage points sound could probably be heard throughout the park, just not when obstructed by the sandstone formations and piles in the park. So we thought it would be great to do an impromptu serenade in the park in which we all just played our respective instruments (flute, violin, viola, and percussion) but at great distances. I have a sort of call and response piece that should work for just such an occasion and once I figure out when we are going to do them I will post it here and other places. This is kind of a fun idea that I think will work easily after a day of song path tours at around 6 or so. Then dinner and drinks around the campfire.

But now, I have to talk a little about last night when I decided I was a little sick of my campfire fare and I went into Sandstone for dinner and drinks at The Gaslight Bar and Cocktail Lounge. I have found that just going in to the most popular looking drinking establishment in any small town is usually immensely fun and fruitful in terms of meeting people. I went in to the bar and thought perhaps that this would be the exception as there was nobody there but me and the bartender and a couple playing pull tabs. But there were some good beers so I sat down and had a Schells Schmaltz Alt, a kind of creamy dark porter from New Ulm Minnesota. Started up a conversation with the bar tender and then a woman of about 55 years walked in and ordered a red wine. As I explained to the bartender what I was doing in the park, she became more curious and eventually asked me if I had visited South East Minnesota. I told her I was doing the project in Whitewater as well to which she responded "I used to work there!". So I asked if she knew Dave Palmquist (the naturalist who I have been working with) and she responded "He was my boss!". Turns out that had she been working there still she would have been the one handling reservations and promotion for the project. She now worked in Indian Mound as a prison psychologist and had some very interesting stories. This conversation eventually involved the whole bar which by this time had grown to around 6 people at its height. They all seemed interested and vowed to spread the word about it. Hopefully I converted a few folks and I know I enjoyed good conversation and good beer. The feeling I had in my head when the thunder woke me up this morning confirmed that perhaps I had one too many (two).

Tonight I return to the twin cities and get some rest until the 16th when I head down to Whitewater State Park early morning to check in with Dave Palmquist and his crew and start this whole process over in a new space. I have to finish my notes and then clear my head. And sleep lots!

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