The Music of
Thomas E. Peterson
The Story Behind a Song

        The Song, "River Song" was written September 16, 2013, in an attempt to write a different song about the "Big Wild of Idaho." I live near this area where I can recognize the threat humanity poses on this vast area that remains pretty much untrammeled. Long ago I had the good fortune to work in parts of this area, where the experience allowed me first hand views in some of the marvels contained in this remote expanse. For the most part, the big wild remains unaccessible except on foot or horseback, a condition that will have to remain if we are to allow the qualities within these natural systems to remain as intact, healthy ecosystems on this wondrous Earth.

I had been researching the geography / topography of this vast area in an attempt to write a song that could demonstrate the essence of this area. I feel or understand that in order to represent a geography, the words must contain the places comprised within its confines. The names of unique places that can hold an iconic meaning can bring resonance to those who have seen them, yet to the majority, these iconic names lack any weight. The tributary streams that compose those major watersheds, the life's blood of the land all have names significant only unto themselves. The names themselves lack any significant content or description to anyone who has never seen. Thus my attempts to align words sufficient to express the meaning of the "Big Wild," remains untold through the method I had a want to create.

During the process of research, the lists of names began to mount. The vast watersheds of these riverine systems and their geographic features, their ridges of separation, their habitat types, the trees, the plant life in general and in localized patterns, all make up this want for definition. These types of descriptions are both permanent to this geography and transient, in that nature has a way of allowing change through fire and disease. Given time, the communities, interrupted through these natural processes, will tent toward returning to a similar state, where the goal of nature is its climax ecological system. Another side of the descriptive puzzle is, that which remains forever transient, the numerous forms of animal life holding its own iconic impressions. Words like, Grizzly and Moose are known, where as others, like Western Larch and Pacific Yew, likely lack equality as iconic in status, in the world of descriptive words. With this word puzzle remaining untold, I toiled in this process, attempting to bring together a poetic essay fitting the area.

My attempts intersected with experimenting in music. As I often do, I find success when dabbling with the guitar, toying out ideas, musical ideas in ways that at times in my past have allowed the muse to manifest at the magic intersection where the sounds can dance poetic in my mind, with words coming into focus, during the interplay of creativity. During one of these attempts, I did find a beginning, a musical pattern that contained a few grains of the sand I'd listed, as lyrical. Yet the muse remained distant, the attempts remained attempts that abruptly halted incomplete. At times like these, it seems the attempts are forced, contrived efforts, rather than a free flowing stream of thought, that I hope to demonstrate musically. During one of these attempts, the muse did allow a sample of the musical quality I had a hope to build. With that, I wrote out some lines of verse, following a unique melody and I recorded it with the hope of capturing the essence of its phrasing in melodic form. This is a method I often use when creating new works, yet the result remained lacking in personal satisfaction.

On yet a different day, another attempt was made. I pulled out the notes I'd written, the lists of qualities descriptive to the representation I'd hoped to present. I reviewed both the lists and the previous recording. Upon completion of the review, as I do, I started fiddling around with the guitar, toying with ideas, suddenly a creation different than what was intended began to emerge. A pattern of finger worked chords developed, words of singing about a river, came out although these lines of verse failed at having an inclusive alignment with the geological lists, yet the subject of a river with little specificity as to its actuality in the physical realm became evident. Rather than painting out the Big Wild, these words pointed toward the origins of a river, its composition and its manifestation, its character as a moving force that we can experience. It became a sculpture of any of the many river systems in the Big Wild or elsewhere in a mountainous geography. It talks of rain drops and how the rain drop is the source of a river because the cumulative collection of raindrops, focused, forced by gravity in the confines of geographic features creates the river, allowing for the rest of nature to be. Now I have sung the song of a river, having written the song, I titled "River Song." The experience is real as I have sung it many times, sharing it with others and in the recording created after its inception. It is true art, metaphorically speaking, the words attempt to create the impression that one can imply a river from a single raindrop, landing in one of our elevated remote places, where the cedars can flourish.

In the future, I shall again return to my lists of geographic features that discriminate between other places and the Big Wild of Idaho, with the intension of capturing what this very special place represents. I hope to make its iconic status evident to all, possibly contributing to the eventual goal that will allow this area to remain as the unique place it is, allowing for its distinct normal to continue as the Big Wild.


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