By Howard Hersh

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Location: Hiking Trails

(Back to Art on the Grounds)

Premiering April 29!

With Four Bridges US-based composer Fellow Howard Hersh uses wireless and geolocation technology to coordinate the experience of space and sound and create a unique immersive sound experience. 

Envisioned as a contemporary reworking of the classic narrative structure of a fairytale, Four Bridges is organized around a familiar plot motif in folklore: a journey through a forest. As listeners follow a meandering woodland path, they are taken on a sonic journey that leads them through redwood canyons into oak-lined meadows. Designed to be experienced by visitors over the earbuds of their smart phones, Four Bridges combines instrumental music, the voices and tinkling laughter of a children’s choir, field recordings, audio clips from archival sources, and readings of poetry and prose.

In fairytales forests are often spaces of loss and abandonment (Hansel and Gretel get lost in the woods; Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf there) but they are also spaces of sustenance and support where protagonists are tested and endure and overcome. Similarly, with Four Bridges Hersh intersperses light, airy and playful interludes with sober passages and subject matter, as he draws upon the voices of our collective past to explore our shared human experience. 

Some of Four Bridges’ most compelling audio material features the voices of victims of political and social injustice: Holocaust survivor Renee Firestone recounts her imprisonment in Auschwitz; Japanese American Masamizu Kitajima describes how his childhood came to an end after his father was forced to relocate to an internment camp during World War II; and anonymous Chinese immigrants memorialize their detainment on Angels Island through the poetry they inscribed on the walls of the Immigration Station in which they were held. Theses voices from the past demonstrate how the politics of mobility are always entangled in the politics of difference. An observation that continues to resonate in the current moment.

Describing his new work, composer Howard Hersh states, “Four Bridges celebrates the beauty, mystery and magic of the forest. Through its music and texts, I hope to create a sonic portrait of the powerful ties that bind humanity to the forest, and the mythology through which these bonds are expressed. The woods enrich and nurture us with their enduring presence; they are also the eternal observers that absorb and reflect the tragedies of our own dark tales. This immersive sonic journey does not dwell on darkness, however; It is infused with the innocent laughter of the child fairies and a lightness that promises redemption and joy.”

Hersh worked with a number of collaborators to realize this new work, including several prominent poets and performers (many of whom he met while a Fellow at the Lucas Artists Program), and the Cantabile Youth Singers of Silicon Valley. 

Four Bridges was commissioned by the Lucas Artists Program at Montalvo Arts Center and is presented as part of Walkscapes, a developing collection and program of artists walks on Montalvo’s grounds, many of which are presented through the mobile app platform Detour. Current offering include Soundings: Lucas Artists Composer Fellows, two curated guided walks that bring the concert stage to the great outdoors by inviting visitors to explore Montalvo’s grounds while listening to a diverse range of sonic work by Lucas Artist Composer Fellows and their collaborators.

This project is made possible through the generous support of the Jo & Barry Ariko Fund for Artistic Programs, Jennifer & Philip DiNapoli, Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Sally & Don Lucas, Benjamin Lyon, National Endowment for the Arts, and the David & Lucile Packard Foundation.