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Wood says composing wilderness music is his most honest inspiration.

“Rivers and Trails” concert at Shambhala to feature Stephen Wood’s wilderness music

The music of Atlanta-based wilderness composer Stephen Wood will be featured this weekend as part of a concert by the Atlanta Contemporary Ensemble. Rivers and Trails, with natural landscape-inspired music by Wood and four other composers, takes place this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Decatur, presented by the ensemble and venue in league with the Georgia Sierra Club and Sierra Club Military Outdoors.

Saturday’s concert is one part of a much larger initiative, Landscape Music: Rivers and Trails, a nationwide series of six concerts being presented this fall in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Trails System Acts. Coordinated by the Landscape Music Composers Network, of which Wood is a member, and presented in collaboration with performers, venues and agencies across the country — including the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and the Sierra Club — the concert series celebrates the significance of our national trails and rivers. 

“Wilderness composing is a way for me to gain the most honest inspiration I can from our world,” says Wood. “Immersing myself in the solitude of wilderness allows me to rid my self the close-minded anthropocentric view society demands of us and to see the living breathing natural world as it is meant to live. From this place is where I feel most musically connected to everything.”

Eleven new chamber works were created by composers in direct response to the places protected under these two landmark acts. Each program in the series presents a different mix drawn from these compositions, which reflect a diversity of creative voices and inspiration.

Two of Wood’s compositions will be included in the Atlanta program: “The Chattooga” and “Apalachicola.” Written for violin, clarinet and piano, “The Chattooga” portrays rafting through that river’s Class IV course, with its twists and turns, roller coaster rapids and turbulent cascades. In contrast, “Apalachicola,” written for a Pierrot ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, evokes the haunting atmosphere of forested coastal wetlands replete with long-leaf pines, cypress, palmettos, woodpeckers and owls, salamanders and frogs and the ghosts of Native Americans, Africans and Europeans who traversed it long ago.

Wood’s latest album, Untrammeled, features select compositions from Wilderness residencies at the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge, Yukon-Charley Rivers Preserve, Nantahala Wilderness Area, Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Red River Gorge. Wood says the rivers and trails theme is a way he can share his love of nature and wilderness. “The Rivers and Trails concert is a way to heighten awareness for public lands and the amazing work of organizations like Sierra Club,” he says.