A Forest Unfolding (2018) - composed by David Kirkland Garner, Stephen Jaffe, Eric Moe, and Melinda Wagner
for soprano, bariton, narrator, flute/alto flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano
A Forest Unfolding is a collaborative work inspired by recent scientific research into the rich communication and subterranean connectivity between trees. Four writers—the environmentalists Bill McKibben and Joan Maloof, along with the novelists Richard Powers and Kim Stanley Robinson—selected prose passages and poems on the relations among people and trees. They presented these selections to four composers—Eric Moe, Melinda Wagner, Stephen Jaffe, and David Kirkland Garner—who set these words into a linked sequence of recitatives and arias. The resulting whole traces a narrative arc from human estrangement from nature to a glimpse of the endless cooperation that knits a forest together.
The composers themselves communicated and cooperated with one another throughout the process, sharing thoughts on the relations between the texts, exchanging material and musical ideas, and shaping the structure of the larger piece. Together, they settled on a shared musical intertext, the final section of the last song in Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, to lend connective tissue to the whole. In this way, a collective process of many makers yielded a work in the cantata tradition about the need for human reintegration with the rest of the deeply collaborative living world.
A Forest Unfolding was conceived by Richard Powers, Laura Gilbert, and Jonathan Bagg. It was commissioned by Electric Earth Concerts for premieres on August 12, 2018 in Peterborough, New Hampshire and August 18th at the Portland Chamber Music Festival in Maine.