By Howard Hersh

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Location: Hiking Trails

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Premiering Summer 2018!

Four Bridges is a site-specific sound work by award-winning composer Howard Hersh, who created it while in residence at Montalvo’s Sally and Don Lucas Artists Residency as a Lucas Artists Fellow. The piece uses geolocation and wireless technology to coordinate space, sound, and motion into a unique immersive ambulatory experience: as listeners follow a meandering woodland path on Montalvo’s grounds, they are taken on a sonic odyssey that leads them through redwood canyons into oak-lined meadows. 

Describing his new work, 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. Instead, it is infused with the innocent laughter of child fairies and a lightness that promises redemption and joy.”

Four Bridges is organized around a familiar plot motif in folklore: a journey through a forest. “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,” said Montalvo’s Lucas Artists Program Curator Donna Conwell. “But they are also spaces of sustenance and support where protagonists are tested and endure and overcome. Combining 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, Four Bridges intersperses light, airy and playful interludes with sober passages and subject matter to explore the richly textured experience of our own human journey, through literal, mythical, and figurative forests.”

Some of Four Bridges’s 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 a WWII internment camp; and poet Garrett Hongo reads poetry by anonymous Chinese immigrants, who memorialize their detainment on Angels Island through verses they inscribed on Immigration Station walls. Commenting on this subject matter in her curatorial statement for the work, Conwell reflects on the extent to which “these 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.” 

Hersh worked with a number of collaborators to realize this new work, including several prominent poets and performers (many of whom he met while an Artists 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.