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MP3 Gregory Coleman - Sarabande of the Distance

Sarabande of the Distance transports the listener from the open fields of Spain to the high peaks of the American West. Intellectual and passionate, Gregory Coleman''s performances are a quest to lift the heart and touch the soul.

13 MP3 Songs in this album (53:27) !
Related styles: Classical: Impressionism, Classical: Classical era, Featuring Guitar

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The power of the wilderness is in its distance. Wild places have a voice that is drowned out when close to the noise of our technological society. Far from that spiritual and physical dissonance Nature''s symphony can be heard. There is a harmony of chaos, strong and fragile all at once. It is a song that renews all good in the human heart.

How can we draw near to the distance? Quietly, and on its own terms. The wind in the trees becomes our breathing; the water in the river is the life flowing in our veins. If we step lightly, with grace, we can learn the dance of the distance.

I have recorded those pieces that remind me of nature''s voice. This is the music I often heard in my mind during thirty years of wilderness trekking and mountaineering. Some pieces are directly inspired by the distant places, others simply share a common spirit.

The first four pieces I wrote as a set, each composition reflecting a different aspect of Yosemite: the grandeur of the Valley, the simple beauty of the meadows, the Native American chief who lost Yosemite, and the European-American who helped preserve it.

When the Miwok Indians came to Yosemite two thousand years ago, they called it Ahwahnee, meaning deep grassy valley. Sheer granite cliffs soar three thousand feet above green meadows and a meandering Merced River. Water shaped this place. Droplets, snowflakes, waterfalls, rivers, and grinding ice sheets formed an immense natural cathedral; the great walls are still adorned by cascading sheets of sparkling water.

Below the east face of El Capitan cliff is a little paradise marked on the map as Leidig Meadow. In the summer an afternoon shower will often pass by and water both flowers and hikers. The darkness soon passes back to light.

In 1851 a white settlers'' militia forced the Ahwahneechee Miwok Indians from their ancestral valley home. Their chief, Tenaya, later died at the hands of fellow Indians near the shores of Mono Lake. He lost paradise and then his life.

This piece was inspired by a Miwok funeral song originally collected in 1908. Native American music is elemental, direct, and powerful. I have tried to keep the spirit of the original music, although expressed in modern ideas.

John Muir was a passionate leader in the struggle to preserve the American wilderness--and Yosemite Valley in particular. A Scotsman, and proud of it, his name is now on dozens of places throughout the Sierra Nevada. Muir thought nothing of a forty-mile hike, although most of us would find eleven-thousand-foot Muir Pass a hard march. Of course, a dance will always overtake us on the downward trail.

An unplanned night in the high mountains quickly reveals why mountain dwellers around the world worship the sun. After a cold bivouac, the first rays of the sun ring like Bells of Dawn (Campanas del Alba). Frost melts away, fingers start to move, and warmth returns. There is a beautiful day ahead.

Rodrigo published En los Trigales in 1939 as part of an imaginary suite titled "Por los Campos de España." The music creates his impression of the wheat fields (Los Trigales) in Old Castile. In this part of Spain these fields are often near a strategic hill summited by a castle. When harvesters look up from the ocean of grass, they can see the ancient battlements. A march section of the piece contains the sound of a distant bell, floating down from the old castle''s chapel. And then, back to work.

Sarabande of the Distance (Zarabanda Lejana) is dedicated "to the vihuela of Luis Milan." Milan played this ancestor of the guitar in the early 1500s. Rodrigo imitates Milan''s chordal style in the form of a stately Sarabande dance. The first section opens with repeated major chords that change to minor chords in the second half of the piece. Rodrigo then uses both major and minor at the same time to produce a glimpse of something faraway, something the eye and ear cannot quite resolve.

Couperin was appointed "claveciniste" to Louis XIV in 1701. Les Barricades Mystérieuses was published in 1717 as part of a keyboard suite, or "Ordre." Exactly what the title means remains a mystery, but some musicologists have suggested the many harmonic suspensions are the barricades of the music. In any case, the ceaseless murmuring is beautifully rendered by the guitar.

The Sonata by Scarlatti is also arranged from a keyboard piece. He wrote over 550 sonatas, most as lessons for his students from the Spanish Royal Family. I doubt that he considered this Minuet an impression of the outdoors, but his composition does use a call-and-response figure that reminds me of mountain echoes. Mountain climbers signal each other with their cries, and their hailing is carried long distances by the wind, echoing through the peaks.

Satie was a genius of mood. Was he also the first New Age composer? The first Gnossienne may have expressed his interest in ancient Knossos or in the Gnostic mysticism. To me, it expresses the magic found in the great Southwest deserts, where Rattlesnake and Coyote hide during the shimmering heat of the afternoon sun.

A completely different mood is set by Gradus ad Parnassum. Debussy wrote this piece as part of the Children''s Corner Suite, which he dedicated to his daughter. Originally a jest on piano exercises, listeners unaware of Debussy''s intent invariably envision waterfalls or fountains.

Torroba intended beauty with his Romance de los Pinos. The Castle of Montemayor sits on a hill above a small town a hundred kilometers south of Madrid. An arid agricultural plain below the old fortress is dotted by groves of olive trees. In contrast, the walls of the castle are surrounded by pine trees, cool and green. Their branches sing lightly in the breeze.

The mountains and deserts of Southern California are home to the Chuilla Indians. They say Temalpakh when they speak of things of the earth. Acorns, berries, pine-needles, mushrooms, cactus, are temalpakh. They are gifts from Mother Earth, full of life, magic and mystery.

Gregory Coleman

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