Mountain Streams

Composed 2018

Instrumentation

    flute/piccolo

    percussion:

        Movement I: Counterhoop, 6' 12' 22' feng                gongs, 4' 6' 8' 10' triangles, china and                  suspended cymbals, low and                              high oval Earth plates, low and high                  found square steel plates, whistle

        Movement II: 5 woodblocks (low, med-                  low, med, med-high, high), low and                  high bongos, low and high congas,                    kick drum, whistle

Duration 13'

Movements                                  

    I. Ridge and Valley (US Route 15/Future I-99)

    II. Laurels and Runs (Pine Creek Gorge)

​Performed by

    Carly Barnes, flute/piccolo

    Micheal Barnes, percussion

​Commissioned by

    Micheal and Carly Barnes

Awarded Honorable Mention

2020 American Prize in Instrumental Chamber Music

​Recording by

    Shawn Milloway, recording engineer

    Owen Hopper

Program Notes

           Mountain Streams is a reflection of my experiences traveling to and hiking in Pine Creek Gorge, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Situated about 10 miles southwest of Wellsboro in northern PA, the canyon is a major geological feature of the region, the creek flowing through the endless ridge and valley Appalachians characteristic of northern PA into the West Branch Susquehanna River west of Williamsport, which joins the main branch in Northumberland. Colton Point and Leonard Harrison State Parks are situated on the west and east rims respectively, offering drive-up views of the canyon. This is the easy way in – to physically earn those views, I hiked the West Rim Trail, which follows 28 miles of the canyon’s western rim from Rattlesnake Rocks through Colton Point and into Ansonia. These 28 miles offer splendid campsites, innumerable stream and run crossings, and armfuls of mountain laurel which threaten to overtake the path. By PA state law, mountain laurel cannot be removed or trimmed, and over multiple sections of trail the laurel dominates the surrounding ground. Whether witnessing the gorge by car or foot, however, the canyon is simply breathtaking – and in the fall when the leaves have shifted color, the canyon becomes downright spiritual in its beauty.

            The first movement, “Ridge and Valley,” begins our exploration via the stunning drive into the Wellsboro region. The gorge may be the destination, but the path through the Appalachians to get there is incredible – and fearful – on its own. North of Harrisburg US Route 15 takes us along the Susquehanna to the junction point with the West Branch, continuing north to Williamsport and then north to the border with New York state, that last stretch soon to become part of I-99. This highway north of Williamsport is especially mesmerizing in its bold, rugged cut through the impressive ridges of the region, an essential artery for economic development in the area that required the blasting of rock millions of years old from mountains that have stood stoically since Pangaea. The flute traces this winding freeway, restless in melodic contour and rhythmic activity while the percussion vocalizes the power of this natural landscape, with massive boulders, formidable rock walls, towering tree-lined ridges, and steep valley drop-offs making their presence heard and felt. We can find beauty in both natural world and human development, as the force required to build both mountain and freeway is impressive in its own right and worth celebrating.

            “Laurels and Runs” then brings us onto the West Rim of Pine Creek Gorge. Ridges full of mountain laurel conflict and guard over the valleys cut by the runs which feed the creek with water, our path constantly dipping in and out to blaze our northward progress. I feel a relative parallel in function here – the large ridge and valley mountains and our freeways through them, are they not as valid as the laurel and water-filled runs of the gorge and the path through them? Are we not just like the water, coursing through the surrounding hills to reach our destination, following their guidance and paths of least resistance? Perhaps the coursing, via streams of water or concrete, are themselves as significant as our destination, if not more so.

            Mountain Streams was composed in the summer of 2018 for two of my favorite collaborators, the power duo of Carly (flute) and Micheal (perc.) Barnes, who premiered the piece in October of that year in Cincinnati, OH.

        July 26 2020

Performance History

    10/23/2018 - University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

                         Carly Barnes, flute/piccolo | Micheal Barnes, percussion

    10/22/2018 - University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

                         Carly Barnes, flute/piccolo | Micheal Barnes, percussion

Joseph Foster Harkins

composer