HIdden Creeks, duos with Hugh Livingston
Hugh Livingston in duo performance along creekways of Oakland with assorted musicians.
My work as a cellist and composer is at the intersection of East and West, of tradition and innovation, of the human and the natural, of artisanal and technological. I play the cello either in unusual ways, or unusual places. My project over the last year, creating musical interventions along the hidden creeks and streams of Oakland, is one such project. It explores the presence of nature in the urban environment, the contrast between the overgrown creek banks and the concrete culverts that funnel the water and keep it from interfering with human life. By bringing instruments made of wood, handcrafted by humans, and representing sometimes very old traditions, we can give them a new voice that connects with the sounds of flowing water, of soundscapes of birds, of wind funneled through the channels in the geographical context of city life. Water itself is a perfect metaphor for the streams of music which we bring together.
I invite musicians to collaborate on a response to the stimuli of nature, which tends to invisibly surround us in the city, and make something very new and illuminating in the process. I was pleased to discover the videographer Darren Hawk, who specializes in documenting 'plein-air' music, to assist in this project. The two most recent musicians were Damon Smith, contrabass, and Ma Jie, Chinese pipa. Leaving the concert hall and the centuries-old traditions of our instruments behind, the act of situating a performance in nature creates a deliberate intersection, one which takes a single trajectory from the past, and creates further possibility for the future. At the same time, sonic ideas from Chinese tradition are borrowed by Western musicians, the kind of intersection that a diverse community like the East Bay provides.