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Suspended Sandstones: 5 Snapshots of Red River Gorge

Composed 2018


    clarinet in Bb/bass clarinet



        metal skillet


        low and high woodblocks

        vibraphone (no motor)

Composed for

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


    I. Double Arches I

    II. Courthouse Rock

    III. Haystack Rock

    IV. Auxier Ridge

    V. Double Arches II

Performed by


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

Performance History

    04/24/2019 - Twin Towers Retirement Community, Cincinnati, OH

                         Holly Nelson, violin | Andrew Compton, clarinets | Micheal Barnes, percussion

    11/11/2018 - University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

                       F-Plus: Kate Dreyfuss, violin | Andy Hudson, clarinets | Josh Graham, percussion

Gallery - click on each photo to enlargen, taken on my iPhone 5S

Double Arches.jpg

Double Arches, seen

from Auxier Ridge

Courthouse Rock.jpg

Courthouse Rock, on the northern approach

from Auxier Ridge

Haystack Rock.jpg

Haystack Rock, seen

from Auxier Ridge

Auxier Ridge.jpg

Auxier Ridge, seen

from atop Double Arches

From Double Arches.jpg

Courthouse Rock, Auxier Ridge (Haystack not pictured, farther to right)

seen from atop Double Arches

Joseph Foster Harkins


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