Monday, August 30, 2010

Wiitewater: The Trout Run Creek Trail and the steps up to Inspiration Point

After missing the parade and accidentally crashing a local family gathering at the local coffee shop they ran in town, I returned to Whitewater to do a hike of the trail I will be using for Song Path. It follows the trout run creek trail, a trail which is dense with water features around every corner, lots of noisy insects, and birds as well as a plethora of different sonic features including stretches that skirt the edge of steep hills that frame the valley it cuts through. Various bridges give stereophonic perspectives on the shallow creek rapids below and fields of various foliage contain different insect and frog breeds which create unique sonic landscapes in the small nooks and crannys that the trail takes you through.

In sharp contrast to Banning where there were sometimes intense moments of silence and where a constant large water feature took over the sound field and then slowly faded into the background to reveal a more still area, the trout run creek trail is a constant barrage of changing sound which occupies your ears at all times and in a way keeps your attention focused on what is directly around you.

After the hike goes deep into the trout run creek trail, I will activate the surprise at which point we will loop back around and hike at a more brisk pace until we reach the steps going up to inspiration point. At this point, my hope is that the audiences focus will be shifted to the larger space as the "surprise" fills the valley with sound. The perspective on this sound will change gradually as the hikers climb the wooden steps and as they reach inspiration point, exhausted, they will hear as well as see the whole valley below.

I am really looking forward to working on tweaking the "surprises" over the next few days and getting the experience to work as best as it can.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Starting again at Whitewater

I am not in St Charles Sitting at a table at a local coffee shop but I spent the morning and early afternoon hiking the Dakota Trail to look for nice spots to put musicians. The dakota is a 3 mile hike with at least three major inclines and valleys to overcome so I am a bit tired but still plan to hit the main hike along the trout run trail and up to inspiration point before sundown.

I spent a couple days helping out with an art opening for my father in law in Osage IA before this which was fun. He is a great artist living in Arizona now and this show was to try and find homes for some of the artwork that is still up in this area. (Check it out if you get a chance at the Mitchell County Historical Society in Osage, IA)

I managed to find a place *way off trail but still pretty easy to get to that you can see inspiration point from. I think it will be a good spot but I got a few scrapes on the way down as I didn't follow my tracks thinging I would find my way back to the trail with an alternate route but instead ended up scaling down a big hill that led all the way to the south picnic area. Wow.

The Dakota trail is extremely beautiful but re-affirmed my belief that I had chosen the right trail as many of the other very picturesque valleys did not have the same amazing echoes as exist in the valleys overlooked by inspiration point. Not just visually inspiring. Also sonically!

Gichi Gumi Trail: Monday evening, August 23rd.

I used the mics I was loaned to record a hike that I had envisioned early on along the Gitchi Gami trail at Gooseberry Falls north of Twin Harbors along the north shore of lake superior. I was extremely tired when I was headed up there, but a little bit of water and some snacks and I was ready though I was missing a wind screen so I had to use some socks. Don't worry, you can't catch any communicable diseases through audio recording as far as I know.

Anyways, I can't quite explain the whole hike but will say that it is a hike I would have loved to include in this run of Song Path but the logistics were just a bit too difficult. I think if I ever do the hike in MN again I will do a weekend or two here logistics or not! Here's a map! It starts over near the upper falls just to the west of the Hwy 61 bridge where you follow the river for a bit past a few sets of shallow rapids and then come upon the full fury of the upper falls. Then you follow the trail around to the falls overlook and then cross the hwy 61 bridge. The constant but uneven iterations of cars and trucks driving by constantly punctuate the various water features you pass here including the lower and upper falls which fade in and out of one another depending on where you are standing but when you pass underneath the bridge you get a real show with a giant reverb chamber and all. Then I followed the Gitchi Gami Trail which goes up an incline to an overlook of lake superior and back again. You never quite get out of earshot of the highway but you do pass various grass and forested areas as well as an overlook of the river valley as it feeds into the lake. A spectacular perspective or series of perspectives on this one dramatic place. As you approach the lake itself, you are treated to several overlooks where the sound of the waves crashing on the beach becomes audible. Finally, you are on a cliff overlooking just the lake and the waves crashing against the rocks below. A spectacular audible moment that only lasts as long as you look over the edge. The acoustic shielding that 300 feet of solid rock provides is quite impressive.

As you loop around and leave the lake, the sound of the waves begins to blend into the distant sound of cars passing by on the highway. They are often at the same rate and their rise and fall seems to almost imitate the other. A creek which was very low when I last visited now runs high and provides several sonic features that contrast the sound of the highway and insects that I pass as I walk. Finally, I emerge onto a bluff overlooking the highway itself where the rock below was blasted out to let the road run more straight. Frogs and crickets give a constant din under which the sound of passing cars rise and fall drowning them out and then letting them cut through once again. Another pass under highway 61 brings us to the visitor center and we end with a similar sound world to what we began with. I plan to post the whole recording here eventually but first I have to edit the segments together. Technical difficulties doncha know!

Monday August 23rd 1:00 PM

A great group. In fact, so great they were related to me. My brother Mike and his wife Kari and their two young children Madi 6 an Aidenn 2 1/2 (pronounced EEEEEden by the man himself).

Now, we Ingebritsen's are actually not known for our ability to remain silent for extended periods of time. Just ask anyone who knows any of us. Most people who know me who hear about this project wonder how I can manage it. I just tell them it is therapy for me. However, for this hike, I decided it best to just let what happened happen. Just asking occasionally what they were hearing. I found the two little ones to be quite attentive listeners despite a running tally of each sound they were hearing including birds, water, the various parts of the river, the quick rush of the wind through the trees. I even got my niece and god daughter Madi to listen to the way the sound of the waterfall at the bridge slowly turned into wind and back again as we left and returned to the bridge. Despite a quick stop for snacks and some confusion over the location of the drum, the two had a fun hike and I even got by brother in on the action by having him play the drum once we got into the stone crushing area. As this was the last hike, we carried the drum out to the car so it would be ready to go and Madi and Aiden took special pleasure in taking turns hitting it as hard as they could. I showed them how if they wanted to make a bigger sound, they should hit it less hard but just try to bring the sound out of the drum instead of pulverizing it. They were really just having too much fun pulverizing it though.

Glad they came up,

but now tired. And going up to Gooseberry Falls to record a hike along the Gichi Gumi Trail.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday August 22nd 4:00 PM

Just sitting here at the old Chris' Food Center after my last hike of the day. The first day I had absolutely no reservations at all and also the first day that I managed to fill all three hikes!

This time some friends of my buddy Chris Chelgren to whom he had raved about the hike enough that they made the trek from St. Paul. I must admit to having been a bit worn out by the two hikes I had already done as they were both fairly long and it was a hot day, but this hike was especially worth it for me and I am glad they showed up because otherwise I would have missed it!

It began with the meditation which was mostly wind and water with the occasional distant iteration from the highway which I was glad I specifically pointed out because the larger sound environment became quite important in this hike.

First, as we approached the waterfall (which had died down quite a bit even since the 1:00 hike) we were challenged with the sound of a helicopter flying overhead. As we approached, the helicopter reached a climax and began to dye down and though it was loud, it was no match for the waterfall which was still very loud on the bridge. As we left the bridge and the waterfall died out, we could hear the distant whimpers of the helicopters among another serenade of birds, perhaps the same group from our 10:00 hike.

We then approached the dripping walls (walls now since all the natural walls that you walk past just before the mound have been active with water features since the rain) and I stopped at each one even though much of the water activity had ceased. This gave us the opportunity to listen to silence and then subtle water drops emerging out of the silence as we proceeded until we reached the mound where a small trickle still drips down in a regular pattern but it can only be heard from the top of the mound. As we left the intimate setting of the mound, the distant train began to sound its horn and the freight cars began to fill the space around us. The low and reverberant rumble slowly filled our ears along with the occasional punctuation of the horn while the helicopter returned at regular intervals as we rounded the dripping wall (the main dripping wall) and explored the details and the dripping pool as well as the waterfall near the dripping pool. As the train and plane faded into the distance, we rounded the corner and also left the dripping pool as if to end this section of music and entered cicada alley to start the second movement with the low rumblings of the river contrasting the sounds of a group fishing in the waters along the bank. This all contrasted with the return of the helicopter for one more pass as we proceeded along the river to the rocky river overlook and beyond. I managed to keep my mouth shut this time for the loop around the rock crusher and powerhouse and I think my sudden performance was quite a surprise for my two hikers.

As the surrounding man made features seemed to be the ongoing theme of this hike, I decided to follow the MCC trail to the outhouse where this time of day they seem to always be using some kind of noisy device to clean out the septic tanks. A great ending to a great hike.

Sunday August 22nd 1:00 PM

Again, despairing of a lack of sign ups and a cancellation for this slot, I went down to the picnic area thinking that I would have an afternoon off, but with the song path, no result can be expected and I was delighted to have a group of college students appear asking if I was "The guy doing the show".

I was.

And quite the show. They asked how long the hike was and stated they might be under some time constraints so I told them I would try and hike a bit faster. As we proceeded though, it appeared that the time constraints might not have been as crucial as I originally thought because as I hiked at a good pace, I noticed that they were mostly lagging behind and even started going off trail to get closer to the river. These 4 were real explorers and wanted to hit all the nooks and crannies near the cliff walls so we did quite a bit of off trail exploring that usually doesn't happen on the hike.

First, we hit the big hole near the dripping wall which had become much more interesting even since the last time I went down there to record with a distinct and quite present low bubbling sound near one corner where water is flowing down a crevice between two slabs into a small cavern underneath.

We did a bit of talking on this tour and I discovered that one of the hikers was a music business student and another a student at Northland College in Wisconsin where she insisted there were lots of kids that would be "totally into this hike". It sounds like a cool place. I am going to definitely be in touch. I think I might need more volunteers for the second weekend in September when I do Song Path down in Whitewater!

Again we hit the river early after cicada alley and then headed straight for the rock crusher and powerhouse loop where we engaged in a kind of freeform improv within each of the walls of the two buildings. Though we spent a lot of time chatting about various things, I think we managed to hear many things in the park that I just would have missed if they hadn't been so curious. I had fun.

Sunday August 22nd 10:00 AM

Today there were no reservations on the books except for one cancellation so I was prepared to perhaps take a 4:00 journey up to Gooseberry Falls but it was not to be as all three of the hikes were filled with last minute walk ins which were welcomed after a couple of slower days in the park.

This hike started with me pulling in a bit later than normal to meet a retired woman who had intended to come with a few friends but after one thing led to another they all became quite busy so she decided to come herself. I was happy she did as it was my first hike with just one hiker. It was a really different experience as I felt it game me the freedom to step back a bit more and observe what a single hiker would notice on their own. I tried this time to listen and sort of suggest what should be listened to but allow her to guide the experience. I don't think she could tell I was doing this of course, but it was interesting to see what happened.

Right off the bat she noticed that there was a distinct lack of bird noises in the initial leg of the hike. "You need to get some birds out here!" she insisted. Then, as if on cue, a group of birds of different varieties began to lay down one of the most interesting grooves I have heard in a long time like they were making a track for Bjork or Nobukazu Takemura. Sometimes you have to tell singers what to do I guess.

We then proceeded past the bridge which she noticed faded quickly despite the loud sound it made as we passed. I pointed out that sometimes the bird sounds seemed to emerge out of it and again, as if they were trying to prove me right, sang in almost harmony with the waters sounds. They must have heard me calling them lazy in earlier hikes and decided to teach me a lesson.

After the dripping wall, we proceeded to cicada alley (newly named) but of course, they were not up that early in the morning, kind of the Jazz musicians of the forest. I did decide to explore a new path which leads straight to the river in variation to the normal river overlook. The river overlook gives a very sudden and dramatic sonic approach to the river which is at what is normally the "golden mean" point of the tour but exploring the path behind cicada alley has its own reward in that it prepares the ears for the overlook which is now just a wash of high and low sound and rewards the ear with very distinct low gulping sounds that create a nice steady rhythm. These are similar to sounds heard farther up stream but here you hear them much closer up which is less reverberant but more present and a nice contrasting singular sonic moment.

Again on our way back the birds gave a last serenade at the stone steps which is a nice place to hear them as the temporary shielding the sandstone provides from the river allows them to cut through the din ever so briefly and then be enveloped once again in the sound of the rapids.

Saturday August 21st 4:00 PM

After having an empty 10:00 and a no show at 1:00, I spent most of the morning today getting dirty and putting microphones where microphones were never meant to go along the trail especially in the caves along the dripping wall where my head can't fit but the mics can. Yes, this trip I actually brought some decent mics with me and have spent some of the free time recording, not only the path itself as I normally do it with the audience, but also some closeup recordings of various smaller water features. I am partly doing this for posterity and partly for a project that my friend Brad conceived of while out here with me to make various recordings and do a deep exploration of the natural tones of the park and their harmonic series to create tonal textures. Brad also provided the microphones (sorry to be putting them where they aught not to go. They are really nice) and also has a studio in St. Paul so I look forward to playing with the sounds there when I get a chance. I think it will definitely be a collaborative effort if we make something from the recordings.

In any case, I held out hope for the 4 PM hike and was rewarded with a family of 4 with two girls who seemed to be around late junior high or early high school aged. We started down the trail on a very calm afternoon with the river raging at perhaps the highest point it had been all weekend or would be to come. Many of the water features began to recede but the waterfall by the bridge was still raging and the occasional interjection of birds emerged from the din as we left the bridge.

I have become more fond of encouraging hikers to spend time listening to the caves I spoke of earlier as I find it gives them a chance to explore certain areas on their own which I think is an important feature of the song path. Each hiker hears differently, so they should have a chance to follow their own ears at times. This group was especially curious in this area and listened to the low drips of the cave intently.

The cicadas were again out in full force and as we rounded the south west end of the loop we listened as their drone became louder and louder against the receding sound of the waterfall near the dripping wall. We then proceeded into an area covered in small sandstone shards and the constant drone of the cicadas with the individual insects turning off their part of the sound as you would approach mixed with the sound of the rocks crunching under foot.

The river was still very high but the sound of frogs and other bugs surrounded us as we stood on the river overlook and not even the constant rush of water could drown them out.

We ended the tour with the sound of a couple of birds of the MCC trail making a regular pulse with some variation. The sounds of the parking lot began to come into focus as we walked closer to the picnic area and made a nice counterpoint to this regular pulse.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friday August 20th, 4:00

A real nice afternoon. After a day of more rain, the 4:00 hike was filled by a mother and daughter team from who's accent I placed to be from somewhere in either southwest or northern Minnesota. Of course, I am bad a placing accents.

The rains we had had during the week of and the previous evening on into the morning made the water level extremely high and the water features were going full force. The hike started off with the usual meditation during which we were subtly teased by the distant sound of birds which often blended with the higher scintillation of of the river and the high pitch of the wind. This theme of animal sounds gently protruding and emerging from other features was a re-occurring theme this hike. As we hiked near the river, these background noises would emerge at times in places where the river was more dampened. Then, as we left the now raging waterfall under the bridge, a small group of birds were singing up the path and the high rhythms of the river did a sort of crossfade as if the birds emerged out of the river sound. Later in the path, after we stood atop the large mound where the water was creating a swift "buzzing" type rhythm, a squirrel let out an angry buzz of his own as if in imitation of the water feature.

The wind was very quite which made it's occasional appearance that much more dramatic and it made me think about how many animals and bird sounds get covered by the wind as I heard these features more prominently on this hike. The activity of the now dozens of water feature made it easy to hike the trail at a slightly faster pace between the mound and the dripping wall as each of the features was loud enough to hear from a distance and hiking a bit faster allowed us to sort of Cross Fade between each of the features from subtle drips to raging waterfalls. It was a spectacular display which helped to set the stage for the deeper exploration we would do then at the dripping wall and the small caves that we had discovered on a previous hike.

As the river was running high and fast, the major sound it made was the high pitched sound of breaking waves which made it so that when you got closer, some of the lower more rhythmic features were covered but as you got farther away, these low sounds became more pronounced above the din so or path along the river at the lower part of the trail was bombarded by the occasional low swell which made stone crusher and power house that more interesting to just stand and listen in. There was no drummer this hike, but I though it was just as interesting to make the hikers more suddenly aware of the space when we entered and I did a short improvisation. I am having more and more fun with the short slap delay in the rock crusher and have found that the sound drastically changes as you go from left to right in the space itself. The two hikers were treated (or subjected) to an extra long improv in the rock crusher. I hope they did enjoy it!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thursday August 19th 4 PM

Not but 30 minutes after the end of the 1:00 hike, it was time for the 4. A single hiker named Holly joined me and we were later joined by Patrick mid trail. This hike got very deep as both Patrick and Holly were interested in exploring every aspect of the places we stopped. Though my poor sister was waiting longer than usual for us to arrive, I could not possibly rush them. We were given a bit of an extra performance by a squirrel throwing nuts down at us near the large mound on the initial leg of the hike. I have found that today I had a hard time getting hikers to follow me to the top as they explored other aspects of the space but encouraged them to go there as it is only atop that mound that the dripping water by the natural cliff wall can be heard clearly. It makes a great contrast to the mix of silence, angry squirrel, and distant birds.

After that point, we were made aware of the larger space due to a large group of kids jumping off the cliff walls into the river in the distance. The iterations of them jumping into the water seemed to occur at a similar interval as I have instructed musicians to hit the drum so I at first thought that my sister had just become impatient with waiting and decided to start smacking the drum. A nice sort of fore shadowing.

At the dripping wall, we again explored the space very deeply and discovered that with the extra moisture in the ground, there were many small caves below us filled with empty space and dripping water that we stuck our heads near and listened to many different sonic spaces within a few square meters of each other. This addition made this quite area very dramatic and as we then pulled our attention back to the larger space there seemed to be so much more to hear as if we had discovered an entire universe in a space that was previously only a planet.

The sound of the cliff divers continued to fill the greater space and re-informed the more intimate sounds we were hearing. We hiked off trail again where the cicadas were waking up and lingered there a bit before hiking on. We noticed that as we approached a certain spot where one of them was sitting under the rocks, they would stop making noise creating a sort of gap in the sonic texture and causing a sort of electronic sounding shift in the chord that was being struck by all of them together.

After we lingered a bit at the river, we marched on to the powerhouse. While we were listening closely to the bass line that the water created, a gaggle of geese flew overheard making a semi-regular rhythmic sound that is characteristic of them which seemed to mix quite intentionally with the sound of the water and made a brief counterpoint.

Again, I could not get the hikers to bend to my will when passing the powerhouse but this time did not notice that they had gone off the trail until after I had arrived at the rock crusher. Instead of going back though, I just began my improvisation in the rock crusher and kept it going until they finally returned to the trail and saw me there. This made the whole area a bit more interesting in that they got to see the powerhouse twice and were a bit more free to explore it more deeply the second time. When I began my improv there, they joined me and Holly even broke out into song singing a few blues and jazz standards from, as I learned later, her time as a singer in a blues band. As she sang, Patrick and I ran around the powerhouse to hear how the sound changed from different perspectives and this song path ended when the kids that had been cliff diving approached the powerhouse and began to pummel it with rocks. A big no no in the parks, but from our perspective, an amazing sound.

Though one of the longer hikes I have done, I felt it was one of the most rewarding and really enjoyed the experience.

Thursday August 19th, 1 PM

The 1 PM hike was dedicated to staff as the naturalist for St. Croix and Banning came out to experience the hike along with my sister Jennifer with her boyfriend Patrick manning the drum.

Megan Johnson, the naturalist who joined us, is also the person that recommended I check out Banning while I was doing some hiking around St. Croix last year. I explained my concept to her and she seemed to immediately get it and pointed me in the direction of the quarry loop trail which I still think is perhaps the ideal place for the Song Path. It was great to have her on the hike to see what she listened and looked for.

We started a little closer to the river for the meditation which I find to be more interesting when listening to the water, especially when there are fewer birds around. Thanks to some heavy rain while I was safe and sound in the cities the water features were up again and the waterfall underneath the bridge was raging. However, the dripping wall was still fairly subtle and we had an amazing time exploring that place a bit more deeply than I had in the past.

Megan, being a mother of two, a naturalist, and general park staff, was multi-tasking as she listened and found all sorts of interesting things in the park such as mushrooms, grasses, pieces of coal, and snake skins as well as pulling up wild mustard weed when she saw it. She also did some incredibly deep listening not just to features that I was pointing out but also to micro-features of the park that I had not considered before. She would put her ear right up to trees to hear the insides as well as listen for birds hiding in the branches and also listened closely to sounds occurring underneath certain weeds and shrubs on the ground. She was graced with the sounds of a couple of small spiders chasing each other around in the small microcosm of the ground and got us both to listen to these features more deeply. We were also serenaded by a couple of small birds (sadly I do not know the species) that had very short and regular chirps but who were chirping at different regular rates creating a sort of out of phase rhythm. As they made their percussive piece, a couple of woodpeckers began to fly overhead and peck at the wood in slow regular intervals as well as tear at the bark to get at insects inside the tree. I learned from Megan that the fast pecking we usually associate with woodpeckers is literally more for communication than feeding and that when they are eating they peck much more slowly.

Later, when we reached the powerhouse, Megan heard the sound of the drum and went into park ranger mode thinking there was someone throwing rocks or something vandalizing the inside of one of the structures. It actually took us off our regular course but since that is where the hike was going, I followed. When she realized what it was, she was relieved and we did a backwards loop starting at the power house and ending with the rock crusher.

We ended the hike with the sound of a loud AC or vacuum unit inside one of the buildings near the parking lot. A great way to end.

Jennifer and Patrick.

After spending a restful three days in the cities and hosting a retirement party for my father, I hit the road again up to Banning Thursday Morning. This time I was joined by my sister Jennifer and her boyfriend Patrick. They were troopers in getting up at the crack of dawn to join me and helped me with my 1 PM and 4 PM hikes, both of which went longer than I had told them. Jenny played the french horn in school and I am not sure what Patrick's musical background was but they both did a great job and followed my always vague instructions to a tea. They now travel on to Winnepeg and I wish them a great trip.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monday August 16th, 4:00 PM

After a quite morning of emailing and eating a health campfire breakfast with Shannon, we headed to town for some emailing and then did a 1:00 hike just the two of us. Shannon hadn't actually been on the Song Path and it was quite relaxing and a nice chance to spend some quality time together. We then tore down our campsite and headed back to the trail for a 4:00 hike that was booked for two families with children ages 2-13. I was prepared.

At around 4:03, a mini-van containing two adult men comes tearing into the parking lot and a head sticks out of a rolled down window, "are you the nature tour guy?". They get out and explain that the tour was going to be 9 people but they had just done a long hike with all the kids and they were not having another hike just after so the two decided to go it alone.

Under normal circumstances, I would insist that a hike with adults be totally silent, or at least attempt to do so, but the two asked if they could chat along the way and for some reason I thought it wouldn't ruin the experience with the two of them so agreed to a chatting tour. I did point out that the experience would be best if they allowed themselves to listen in particular places. This actually made the tour quite interesting as I learned along the way that one of the hikers was also a composer and cellist named Aaron Kerr who performed his own works and as it turned out, had recorded in my friend Brad's studio in St Paul called Essential Sessions. I also learned that the other hiker Dean was involved with charter schools and knew a lot about acoustics as he had been in charge of a project in which they measured the acoustics of the rooms at their charter schools and got recommendations on how to improve them. Apparently, the acoustics of a room have been proven to effect the performance of students in a given class as certain places in a room make the teacher hard to hear and muddled. He was often commenting on the hike that a certain location would be great to work in.

Though I feel we might have missed some interesting transitions along the way, I also realized that allowing them to chat and ask questions along the way allowed us to reflect on particular features as we walked. I also felt more free to go off trail in places that I had not ventured with other groups and we made some amazing sonic discoveries. After the first and second dripping walls, there are a stack of rocks left over from the quarry mines. Rocks that were still there after the last train pulled out of Banning. We spent quite a bit of time walking between these rocks as they noticed the very dry acoustic that part of the path makes but then we ventured behind them, a somewhat more difficult area where uneven rocks have moss growing on them where I am disinclined to take people normally. Behind these rocks, after carefully scaling some larger rock faces- and being careful not to trample some small fern like plants growing on the rocks- we emerged in a small chamber created by the quarry miners as rock was piled up on one side and sheer cliff walls surrounded it on the other two. This was perhaps the quietest place I had been in the park and even the very slow trickle of water down the walls seemed quite dramatic.

Later in the hike, stopping to hear the sounds of cicadas, Aaron actually went off path himself to follow the sound to its source so Dean and I followed to great reward as we were surrounded and enveloped as we walked with their texture slowly changing and deepening as we turned one way and another while walking of shards of left over sandstone from the stone cutters near the south west leg of the trail. I we then hit the river overlook which was the most spectacular I had heard it yet and we actually again stayed off trail longer than I normally do braving a section of trail that is a bit more narrow and overgrown and very close to the river's edge. Normally I would avoid this part as it seems a bit dangerous for kids and maybe older folks which my two brave hikers confirmed "yeah, we wouldn't have tried this with the kids!"

The stone crusher and powerhouse were also extra interesting as I asked the two of them if they would care to join me in a little jam session in the strange reverb chambers. They were more than happy to oblige and we ended up doing kind of slow rhythmic improvisations in each with the drum punctuating our playing. Fun!

I ended this tour earlier than normal as the sound of the bubbling and lapping against the sandstone at the river near where the quarry loop and spur trail split off was so spectacular. It just seemed like an appropriate place to stop and reflect.

Sunday August 15th 4:00 PM

My first mixed crowd. Meaning, my first hike with two groups of people that did not know each other before. A family of 5 with 3 very attentive older children and an older couple by themselves. I know I keep mentioning the makeup of each group. It is important for me in that I feel different types of groups will have different ways of enjoying the experience.

I will admit that on this hike I at first thought it would be a challenge to create an experience that everyone would enjoy but then decided just to run the hike as if it was a single group of adults with a few extra stops for the younger crowd and maybe a little bit of interaction to keep their attention.

I found that it was much easier than I had expected to keep everyone's attention and that the kids were just as intent in their listening as the adults. I also found that often they were lingering in places longer than I was inclined to which, as I have said before, makes me feel like I have done my job. In the end, I felt that all of us were listening with similar ears as we got used to each other and it ended up being a very satisfying hike despite a very pointed lack of bird sounds. This singers taking the afternoon off!

The water features and wind really came out in this hike and as the wind would rise and fall it really emphasized the subtle sounds of water and the rare punctuation of a bird, insect, or squirrel. This time, the mixing of the low river sounds and the drum actually slightly frightened one of the hikers as they really thought it was rocks turning over in the water and then realized it was coming suddenly from further inland. I don't think the fear was too great though as she said she was coming back next weekend.

The water features are really starting to recede but instead of making things less interesting it is in fact making those places more intimate but also more sonically diverse as you can hear more details of minute water drops.

My wife Shannon played the drum for this hike. I am happy to have her here after a month apart. I think she is also glad to be out of Chicago for a few days. It's really loud there.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shannon Budd

I also want to take the opportunity to introduce my wife Shannon Budd. She has been REALLY busy while I have been here. A series of unfortunate and unexpected events have made it so we have to move to a new apartment in Chicago while I am here doing this residency. She has pretty much been doing everything as well as maintaining her music teaching business and generally holding down the fort in Chicago while I have been gone. Luckily we have many friends and relatives willing to pitch in, but still, I have to give here a special load of credit in making the song path possible. In general, in making the whole music career possible. Without her support and constant advice, I would probably not be here doing the song path right now. So, thanks dear.

She is also helping out with an art opening in Osage IA for her father Eric which happens on the 28th of August. She is busy!

Shannon is a talented flutist and music educator and runs a center for a children's music program in Chicago called Music Together. She also teaches a full studio of very successful flute students (one of whom went on to Depaul University to study with Mary Stolper among others) and I have gotten lots of good advice on how to lead hikes with kids just by watching how she runs her classes and listening to her tell me about her days.

Despite all the events that have popped up this summer, she found time to drive up to Chicago and visit me and help out with the Song Path. I think sitting in the woods and beating a drum every once in a while is quite therapeutic given everything that has been going on. I really appreciate having her here. She is helping me with a couple of days in Banning as well as possibly coming up for the first few days of labor day weekend in Whitewater.

Chris Chelgren

In an ongoing series on this blog, I am going to spend one post each talking a bit about the musicians that are helping me out with the Song Path as they appear. I already told you about my friends Brad Matala and Steve Laukannen and now I would like to introduce my old friend and fellow composer Chris Chelgren. Chris and I were roommates at St. Olaf College and we took many of the same classes of which we attended as many as we could given our rigorous sleep schedule. We were actually the original Song Pather's in a way as we spent many a night on the hill hiking through the woods and listening to things, especially the two big blue water towers that protruded from the top of the hill which were like gigantic space crafts at night if you just leaned up against them and looked up at the stars. We spent hours at night playing those towers and howling to the universe as college age people tend to do. Fun times. Chris is now teaching viola as well as holding down a full time day job much as I normally do and is composing and making tunes for his viola and other instruments. When I told him about the song path, he couldn't wait to get back on the trails. He will be helping me out a couple of days in Banning as well as down at Whitewater the second weekend in September. I a really glad to have him here. His drumming will be exquisite!

Sunday August 15th 10:00 AM

Another Great morning hike. A couple from Minneapolis who were both writers as well. And with the water levels and water features caused by earlier rains receding a bit, there were even more moments of poetically rhythmic patterns emerging from these places. More and More I really fell musical rhythms coming out of them and the young woman on the tour even pointed out a type of poetic meter (the name of which I can't remember of course) that was occurring in the waterfalls under the bridge.

Everyone hears differently and this hike really re-confirmed an earlier notion I had about this hike that the actual "music" of the Song Path is created in the head of each individual listener depending on their specific way of hearing and interpreting each sound in relation to the other sounds. I also have noticed the extreme differences that are made in sound environment when the head is moved even a little bit in relation to certain features. This group was extremely verbal after the hike and described many things that I was not specifically hearing at the time but I immediately knew what they were talking about based on their description of these moments. Very multi-dimensional.

The winds played beautifully through the trees on this hike and at times in the beginning after getting away from the river I felt like we were listening to the hike in headphones as the winds enveloped us in their sound. The drum was also effective here and as the river had receded a bit further, the sounds of water lapping against the sandstone continued to follow us from the stone cutter shed to the powerhouse. The sound of the drum seemed to emerge from these low river sounds and it created a beautiful transition which I felt expressed maybe even something a bit metaphorical about the dual nature of the park as a natural site as well as one forged by the will of human enterprise.

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 14th 1:00 PM

This hike started with a very enthusiastic family of five including a couple from St. Paul and their 3 children Andrew (5), Emily (3), and Olivia (1). Of course, on a hike with smaller children, I do the hike a bit different, but Banning's Quarry Loop Trail is still a big loop and there is no easy way to make it any shorter, so after I gave my routine on the length of the hike and the parents said they had no problem with it, we soldiered on. And to great reward!

In a hike with small children of course it is more or less impossible to do a completely silent hike so we opted to just walk and talk and in some key places, just listen for a little bit. I often asked the kids what they heard and was rewarded by a flurry of excited answers including birds, water, more water, and more water. They loved the water- especially little Emily. So we were lucky that the water features were still going strong and spent lots of time hear the streams and waterfalls and especially the "dripping wall" as I have come to call the quarry area near the north west end of the loop.

This hike was a bit longer due to a bathroom stop, a lost shoe, and a few arguments over the relative merits of carrying a very big stick as opposed to a smaller, very special stick, but it was worth it to see the small kids really get into listening, albeit in between playing in some of the water, which was also very fun to watch.

I think the highlight of the tour might have been the trip through the stone crusher and powerhouse as it gave me an opportunity to lead the kids and parents in a short "jam session" inside each of these unique sonic spaces. We clapped and stomped in rhythm and even though it takes a heavy stomp to activate the powerhouse, both Andrew and Emily were able to see how their foot steps and hand claps sounded inside the massive structure. At least that was the highlight for me, I think the kids like the water the best : )

At the end, the parents were amazed at how good the kids did even though the hike was a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes! But between the walks, listens, and detours, the parents also had a chance to stop for a second and listen deeply and relax. I was glad to have been able to share an experience that both generations could enjoy.

Now I am sitting back at my campsite just trying to remember all the things that occurred. I don't want to forget anything!

August 14th, 10:00 hike

In sharp contrast to the previous days, Saturday was sunny and warm, but not TOO warm, and the wind was fairly calm so the birds were out in full force and this time quite audible. The hike started with a young couple from my home town of Bloomington MN though they did go to Bloomington Jefferson rather than my cross town alma-mater of Bloomington Kennedy. But then again, nobody's perfect : )

As the sun was shining and it was slightly windy, we did get a good mix of water, wind, and bird noises for the meditation. The water fall near the bridge was raging and the quarry cliffs were awash with water features from small droplets in the distance to full on waterfalls that had not been there even the day before despite the rains that had fallen previously. there were many places where the couples listening far exceeded my expectations and I realized that if I was going to get them to move to the next place I would somewhat have to interrupt their experience and start walking quite loudly to indicate I was moving. That was very gratifying for me and I really never wanted to interrupt what they were listening to. All the various water features gave us interesting perspectives on the rock formations as we would hear them from far away and then be able to go in close to hear more minute details and then sound environment near these formations changed dramatically. The water really works better than most of the musical ideas I had earlier envisioned putting in these spaces.

This was also the first hike in which I had someone playing the optional drum solo. I will refrain from revealing the location so as not to ruin the surprise for future hikers, but its sound made just the blending with the river I wanted and emerged out of a wash of sound and helped as I had thought it would, to accentuate the man made features of the park.

The singers were not sleeping on this hike as the sound of birds singing at one point surrounded us on all sides in the woods leading back to the river and powerhouse as well as when we climbed the stone stairs near the end of the hike. This made for a great closing moment before we followed the river back to teachers overlook. I was really happy to hear their comments after the hike and think I am going to learn a great deal about the human element of this piece as I do this first weekend of performances. Everyone will hear something different and everyone's exploration of the sounds will in should be completely unique and individual.

Brad and Steve

I have to take a minute to Thank my friends Brad Matala and Steve Laukannen who helped me out Part of Friday and all of Saturday with the hikes. Steve and Brad are both friends of mine from High School who I was in a band with late high school and early college. Steve now works and lives in the twin cities area as does Brad who runs a recording studio in St. Paul called Essential Sessions. They were amazing and amazingly patient with me as the hikes are taking longer than I had anticipated and they waited patiently in the power house for two full hikes on Saturday in between fishing in the river and soaking up the sun. They also rescued me from myself and my campsite for an evening but it was decided before they arrived that the destination would be Grand Casino Hinkley and the all you can eat buffet! With all this hiking, I can eat quite a bit. And we won some of the money we spent there playing Black Jack! I am not a gambler normally, so I had no problem stopping while I was ahead. We then hit the city of Sandstone's Quarry Days celebration which kept me up too late but was immensely fun as we hung out at my favorite bar there, the Gaslight, and took in two bands and some fireworks. Hearing bands that have their entire speaker system, instruments, and audio reactive lights set up inside of a SEMI with a removable side panel play "Ramble On" by Led Zeplin and "Summer of 69" by Brain Adams for some reason never gets old to me. All in all, a good night.

Thanks Brad and Steve!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Evening. More rain. Going to Quarry Days to Drink with Friends


My earlier enthusiasm about a great 4:00 hike was brought back down to earth as even though I had a very enthusiastic group of hikers willing to face the wet weather, BOOM! CRASH! FLOOD! the rains came down with a fury. We dispersed, they to St Paul (and then back to France as I understood) and I to my tent to listen to some of the recording I did earlier.

I am being joined tonight by my friends Brad and Steve whom I used to be in a band with in the Early 90's in Minneapolis. The Unfinnished. Yes, with two N's. (they are of Finnish descent). But our musical journey continues as they have agreed to help me out tomorrow with the song path in between pulling bass out of the kettle river (I hope, because I want to eat some fish! MMMMMMMMM).

But some good news came with the rains. A segment on the Song Path Aired today on MPR's All Things Considered.

You can listen to it here.

August 13

The rain has been somewhat of a constant so far this weekend having rained pretty hard the first night as well as all last night and now again during the day today. Not just rain, but thunder storms. I started out this morning at 10:00 doing a solo recorded hike to start gathering material to post on the DNR website. I have decided I will most likely edit out several segments of 6-10 minutes so people can peruse online and then perhaps create a map from the PDF template that catalogs where on the trail each segment was taken. I also decided that instead of leaving behind a MP3 of the meditation, I would instead write out several different meditations depending on the season so that an interested party could download and print out a PDF Song Path guide with both a printed meditation and a map showing the exact trail and starting point with some suggested stopping points along the way. That way the hiker can really get the experience of the space at the moment they are there rather than being transported backwards in time to the season and day that I was making the recording.

To give a bit of context on this, Amy Barrett at the Minnesota DNR, who is now my main contact for the entire project, thought it would be a good idea to leave something behind in each park that people visiting the website or the parks could enjoy after my project was done. I thought at the time that an MP3 of the along with a MAp showing where the song path goes would be a good idea as well as some MP3 files of the hike itself so people could get an idea of what it was like without actually being there. In retrospect, it seems that really "being there" is a part of the experience so even though I still plan to post some audio clips, I just think a recorded meditation would take a potential hiker OUT of "being there". The park changes so much from day to day and week to week that I think it would be best for them to have some sort of reference that didn't impose a certain time an place on their ears before they begin hiking the trail.

So, back to the rain, I am sitting in a tent right now wondering if my scheduled 4:00 hike will go off. The rain isn't coming down too hard actually and if there was still a bit of thunder in the background it would be incredibly interesting. Nina and Hans -Georg and I experienced this in Whitewater and it was spectacular but I fear the hikers won't show. I would love to be able to find them to encourage them to do a rain hike with me but we'll see. Crossing my fingers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August 12th. First day of Song Path

Had the first tour today. I decided that I would chronicle each tour in blog form to give the participants a chance to comment if they wished to share their experience with others.

I have no idea if anyone will, but I thought it would be nice for me to share the experience and to keep it for my own records.

Thursday August 12 10:00 AM, Banning State Park.

Today was another fairly hot day but started early so the 10 AM tour I had was still quite pleasant. The birds were not quite as active as normal at first but the increased water levels and recent rains made many of the stone and quarry features much more interesting. When we neared the west end of loop, we left the trail for a bit and were rewarded with a spectacular "rhythm section" -as one hiker put it- of water dripping into the deep pools below as well as high waterfalls that had formed from rainwater. None of this was present in my initial hikes three weeks ago, but they were a welcomed addition to the hike. I have noticed that the sun has quite an effect on bird and other animal sounds and as we rounded the west section of the loop, the sun burst through the clouds letting out a cacophony of bird sounds which then also instigated insects and a few squirrels who I have noticed make strange threatening noises when people approach. Probably a way of marking their territory, but against all the other sounds, a beautiful addition. At certain times, there were even regular polyrhythms formed between the different animal sounds that were somewhat reminiscent of the rhythms that the water on the quarry rocks was making just previously so it seemed to me a large scale structural element in the sonic composition the park was playing.

This hike, and those I assume that will come the next few days, were mostly about intimate spaces rather than the details of the larger expanse of the park as the sound of the Kettle River dominated the soundscape a bit more than it had previously. On the other hand, there were quite a few more interesting details than had existed before due the the addition of extra water features and when the bird activity increased, there was a lot more diverse sound occurring in the background than had been. There were also more details that you could hear in the river itself as the large eddies that create the famous potholes of the kettle river could be heard loudly with their low swelling noises as large swells of water slapped against the rocks.

In general I was quite satisfied with the hike though I think I might have lingered a bit too long in certain spots as we hiked for nearly 90 minutes. The group seemed quite interested in the sound worlds we stopped in so I decided not to take them away from the pre-maturely. I will be very interested to hear the difference between today and tomorrow though I think the water level may remain consistent as the forecast tonight is for rain. I think I hear thunder now!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back To Banning


China, done.

I could go on here for about 20 pages about the experience of playing at the International Society of Music Educators conference with my friend and long time collaborator Jason Wampler in our electronic music duo We Can and We Must, but that is for another blog!

Now, after a few days getting settled back in in Minnesota, I am back at Banning. Things have been a bit hectic so instead of doing multiple blog entries I will just summarize the last several days here in one entry so blog time and real time can re-connect.

After a few days organizing my gear, washing cloths, and catching up on emails and phone calls as well as getting over a mean case of Jetlag (I am still waking up in the middle of the night), I finally headed to banning on the 10th (yesterday). When I arrived, it almost immediately began to rain so I set up my tent really quickly, then saw my father off after a quick stop at Toby's for a caramel roll, and then hit the trails. What I realized almost right away was that the rain has even more effects than I thought. First off, I had heard word via a call from my wife on the cell phone that it was supposed to possibly hail and thunderstorm so I hung out by the bathrooms for a bit in case it was true. After it seemed unlikely we would get any hail, I set out on the quarry loop trail which was almost completely dominated this time by the various water features that are not nearly as present when the weather is more dry. I also noticed that the wildlife is much less present in the rain and in general, when it is cloudy out which I did not experience as much during my previous stay. I decided, despite further threatening storms, to hike the trail in its entirety and was rewarded by several additional waterfalls, thunder claps, and even a few freight trains in the distance which made a beautiful slow moving musical structure as I walked through the various terrains.

Today I hiked the trail again with sunny skies but the amount of rain the fell last night left the park a wash with new water features and a very high river which carried much farther than it previously had. I am looking forward to hearing how this new water level and these new features change over the course of a hopefully dry weekend though the forecast does show a chance of showers for the next few days.

Tomorrow the Song Path and though there are no reservations on the books I have had a few people approach my campsite asking about the hike so perhaps I will have a few takers. I guess the fliers in the park worked despite my new beard.

July 19th and last post until I get back

This and the next few posts are ones that I wrote on paper during my stay at Whitewater state park but didn't have web access/time before I left on a two week trip to Beijing where I discovered, not surprisingly, that my blog site was blocked by the government filters there. I have now been back in town a few days and have been catching up on some organization and getting ready for the first performance dates at Banning State Park which begin this Thursday the 12th.


Now it is the 19th and tomorrow I leave for a 2 week trip to Beijing, China. A slight change of pace I know.

This first 3 weeks have been quite revealing and have taught me a lot about what this whole Song Path idea is. I intend to continue my listening practices in Beijing to keep my ears in shape and will hopefully have some good recordings when I return.

I won't be posting to the blog while in China but will resume after I return on August 4th.

PS: These are my friends in Beijing.


This and the next few posts are ones that I wrote on paper during my stay at Whitewater state park but didn't have web access/time before I left on a two week trip to Beijing where I discovered, not surprisingly, that my blog site was blocked by the government filters there. I have now been back in town a few days and have been catching up on some organization and getting ready for the first performance dates at Banning State Park which begin this Thursday the 12th.


July 18th 2010: World Listening Day

Today is World Listening Day as declared by the International Society for Acoustic Ecology: an international organization devoted to listening and to preserving and documenting man-made and natural sound environments around the world.

So, since I recently became a member at the encouragement of members who I know and found out about Song Path, I decided I would use this opportunity to participate by bringing some friends of mine and fellow WLP members who lived in the area on a sound hike of Whitewater. We set out in the morning and were accompanied by a group of enthusiasts including Poet James Armstrong, MPR's Marc Sanchez who brought along some recording gear, Videographer and film maker Jason Schumacher, Hans and Nina, and my lovely wife Shannon who surprised the three of us in the middle of our rendition of Johny Cash's "Jasckson" last night at Nye's driving all the way from Chicago to do so! That's dedication.

Though there were some difficulties finding each other at Whitewater and we were running quite late, we finally all set out on a hike in the afternoon shot by Jason and Recorded by Marc. It was my first hike with a large group and though I was a bit nearvous, they were a captive audience and surprised me by at times stopping in places I did not intend to and sometimes lingering longer than I was inclined to. If every group is that into what they are hearing, I will be quite pleased.

After a very interesting hike, Shannon, Hans-Georg, and Nina left and made some noises in the park itself while Marc, James, Jason, and I listened from Inspiration Point. It was an incredible experience to sit and listen to different parts of the valley come together as the sun went down. I also noticed that the wildlife in the park seemed to respond to the man made sounds and once they stopped, we had an sort of "coda" performed by the local wildlife. I hope they weren't noises of displeasure, but as the naturalists seems to think we are not disturbing things too much, I think they are most likely just natural responses to stimulus. I have also noticed that the sun, rain, wind, and mere presence of human beings does seem to influence the amount and type of sound the animals make. I really think the heightened awareness of the space the instruments will bring to audience member is worth the metaphorical disruption the sounds bring. I also found that fellow hikers started to join in at certain moments. It almost made us feel like we all belonged there.

Later, we did a brief interview to use to accent the video document and perhaps to become an audio segment on Minnesota Public Radio and got a great recording of some hawks either mating or fighting. Whatever it was, it was spectacular.

Monday, August 9, 2010

July 16th at Whitewater

This and the next few posts are ones that I wrote on paper during my stay at Whitewater state park but didn't have web access/time before I left on a two week trip to Beijing where I discovered, not surprisingly, that my blog site was blocked by the government filters there. I have now been back in town a few days and have been catching up on some organization and getting ready for the first performance dates at Banning State Park which begin this Thursday the 12th.


July 16th-17th at Whitewater. We headed out to Whitewater State Park today with a full cooler of food that should be just enough for the three of us (we like to eat). I sit now at our campsite which was saved for us, an overflow site near the visitors center, even though the campsites were all full. Dave Palmquist, who is the park naturalist at Whitewater, has been incredibly helpful as have all the park staff. They have an amazingly calm way of taking care of an incredibly busy park that has recently undergone severe flood damage. They are also all pretty much comedians and a visit to the park office is usually as entertaining as it is informative.

On the way in, we stopped for some blackberries and strawberries which were growing at a local farm and were able to pick them straight off the vines. In Chicago, we would probably pay extra for that privilege, but in this case, at a discount. I love it when things make sense!

After a quick orientation with the park staff and working out some details about dates, times , and starting places, we set out on the Chimney Rock Loop towards Inspiration Point. (for reference, here is a PDF Map of the park). When visiting here last year, I recalled this trail being quite active with both bird and insect life and also recalled that there were some quite dramatic looking ravines just north of the trail and all these features contrasted the sound of the river that the trail follows most of the way to inspiration point. but, as I have found to be true at Banning, looks can be deceiving. Many of the features that appeared to be quite dramatic visually actually yielded very subtly results when sounds were made within them and the wildlife this time seeded to be a bit more subdued than last year. Of course, the difference in animal, namely insect noise, can be attributed to a slightly different season as I was last there in mid September but it was disappointing to find that my assumptions about what I thought would be my trail were in fact wrong. Inspiration point proved to be the exception to this as Nina and Hans-Georg descended the long stairs that lead to the valley below and created a cacophony of sounds that resonated throughout the valley. The valley that Inspiration point overlooks is really a central meeting point of three different river valleys where Trout Run Creek and the Whitewater River conjoin. It was interesting to note that certain higher pitched sounds or those with sharp attacks seemed to resonate not only locally in the depression in which they were created but also in the greater valley which joined all these geological depressions. It was also interesting to note that the sounds which resonated throughout the valley seemed to do so at a higher altitude than the lower sounds.

After leaving inspiration point, we decided to take a detour down Trout Run Creek instead of taking the route I had intended to be the end of the trail which leads back to the south picnic area. We quickly realized that This trail is everything I had hoped that Chimney Rock Trial would be with incredibly diverse wildlife and water features as well as several really interesting wooden bridges. It is far more isolated than Chimney Rock and further from the swimming area which provides a constant din as you approach inspiration point from that side which can be distracting. I nearly immediately decided that I had the trail all wrong and it should start from the south picnic area and first explore this more isolated and intimate path, then end after returning from the end of this trail to inspiration point up the long set of wooden stairs that lead there. I can then give the audience two different perspectives on the trail, one, an intimate exploration from within, and then, after turning the group around, the musicians in the park can start to make noises which will bring their perspective outward and get them to focus on the larger valley that they will eventually perceive in its entirety as they look out from inspiration point.

Or something like that.

But for now, there are burgers and zuchinni to eat, and wine to drink.

Nina, Hans-Georg

This and the next few posts are ones that I wrote on paper during my stay at Whitewater state park but didn't have web access/time before I left on a two week trip to Beijing where I discovered, not surprisingly, that my blog site was blocked by the government filters there. I have now been back in town a few days and have been catching up on some organization and getting ready for the first performance dates at Banning State Park which begin this Thursday the 12th.


July 15th 2010, Twin Cities

I should spend a little time talking about my friends who visited from Germany today, Hans-Georg and Nina. They are both involved in theater, Hans-Gyorg being the Dramaturg of the Bremen Opera and Nina being a site-specific theater director who does projects around the globe. I have known them for quite some time and met Nina during my time in Krakow, Poland in 1997. Since then we have kept in touch and often times bounced idea off each other as we embarked on various projects so it seemed fitting that they should visit during my prep work. They had in fact, been planning to visit me in Chicago and even though it took them out of their way on their trip from Chicago to New Orleans, they decided to fly up to Minnesota for a few days to see what it was all about.

As you can imagine, I will be putting them to work. But first, I had to show them a bit of the city and even though they were still getting over jetlag, they somehow had the will power to deal with the Mall of America and its many indoor amusement delights including a green roller coaster called the orange streak and shops with names such as "Justice: Just for Girls" and "Cinnamonster" which you can imagine they had a field day with. Then, a trip to lake Nokomis for a swim and dinner with my family which ended with a fantastic Pear Schnapps that they brought from France as a gift to my parents for their hospitality. Good times.

I am so glad that they could make it and look forward very much to getting their perspective on the Song Path. Nina has never been shy about making me and others around her question and dissect their own artistic motivations and I I look forward to seeing their response to what I am doing here now.