Suspended Sandstones: 5 Snapshots of Red River Gorge

Composed 2018

Instrumentation

    clarinet in Bb/bass clarinet

    violin

    percussion:

        metal skillet

        triangle

        low and high woodblocks

        vibraphone (no motor)

Composed for

    F-Plus: Kate Dreyfuss, Andy Hudson,              Josh Graham

Movements

    I. Double Arches I

    II. Courthouse Rock

    III. Haystack Rock

    IV. Auxier Ridge

    V. Double Arches II

Performed by

    F-Plus

Program Notes

    I’m an avid hiker. Growing up in Central Pennsylvania provided myriad opportunities for marvelous hiking all over the state, and compositionally these places, and getting to them, served as moments of deep inspiration and perspective. When I moved to Cincinnati, I correctly feared I would have to travel farther just to get into the mountains, much less hike up and down them, which led to a natural exploration of the Eastern Appalachian hills of Kentucky, including the oft-mentioned and famous Red River Gorge due east of Lexington. The Gorge, upon first visit, provided the first mountainous destination outside of PA I so longed for after my move, and the area did not disappoint. What struck me about the place are the remarkable sandstone features that dot the landscape, massive slabs of rock pushed to amazing heights by natural forces over millions of years. The beauty of sandstone is its remarkable resistance of erosion – soil will slowly wash away over time, but the rock is unaffected. Weak points in the rock create pockets where wind and water can slowly make inroads, and eventually come out the other side. Due to the rock’s strength, these weak points are isolated, and the surrounding rock remains unaffected, creating stunning arches and other beautiful formations.

    Suspended Sandstones features a few remarkable landmarks in the Gorge that seem almost placed by a very powerful hand. We begin in Double Arches, where two different sandstone arches are stacked inside a hole in the face of a huge sandstone ridge, and both sides of the ridge are visible from this literal “hole in the wall.” From here looms Courthouse Rock, a massive apparition at the edge of Auxier Ridge on the opposite side of the branch, where one can imagine an otherworldy presence residing over the place. Haystack Rock stands in front of Auxier, a half mile south of the Courthouse, and features a single formation of rock that’s been eroded into a smaller boulder on top of but still connected to a larger boulder beneath. Auxier Ridge as a whole is also considered, forming a parallel with the Double Arch Ridge on the other side of the branch. We finish again in Double Arches, this time focused on the commanding view we receive of all the landmarks referenced in this set of snapshots.

    Suspended Sandstones was written with gratitude for F-Plus in the Fall of 2018                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  - October 9 2018

Joseph Foster Harkins

composer