• Tanya Tomkins
  • August 25, 2013

Ruminations on the Earth from Moab

Tanya at Moab/credit Richard Bowditch

Tanya at Moab/credit Richard Bowditch

Concerts have taken me to some gorgeous places in the last few years — Montana, Alaska, Oregon — and every year for the last twenty, to Moab, Utah for the annual music festival here.

The more I see of it, the more I am in awe of the stunning natural beauty of this country. It is changing, though, and we can’t know what is going to happen to the beauty, the land, or to us. For the last few years I can’t help thinking about climate change. It is impossible for me to put out of my mind, in fact. The glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana is disappearing. I am told the glaciers melting into the ocean in Alaska right now contain water from the 1970’s. Apparently that water has  DDT in it and is giving the whales cancer.Anasaziwallart

Here in Moab, the Colorado River gets lower every year and is getting so sick that environmentalists fear for its future. On the way to Moab this year we stopped at Canyon de Chelly and Mesa Verde National Park. Seeing the ancient ruins and the petroglyphs there is to marvel at the creativity and ingenuity of these past civilizations. They lived with the land, respected it, cared for it in a way we may never fully understand. Simultaneously, they had appreciation for design, beauty,  and art. It is apparent from their drawings, their painting on pottery and on the insides of their buildings that they valued fun and creativity, that it was an important part of their experience. My life has been devoted to playing classical music. But the changing world inspires in me the following questions: Why play music? Is it relevant? Is it helping our world? Is it helping the environment?Anasaziruins

Seeing the art of the Ancient Peubloans (the new name for the Anasazi Native Americans) this past week has renewed my faith in the necessity for art and beauty — even in the worst of times, or maybe even especially in the worst of times. Hopefully bringing music to people is to lift their spirits, to tell them stories, to bring something positive into this potentially bleak moment in civilization. And while I am still flying in planes and driving in cars to get to these concerts, and even if I can’t braid beautiful ropGROTTO-VERT-retouched_0e from the Yucca plant, of make my own dyes and medicines (not yet, anyway!), I can at least take this one page from the Anasazi’s playbook

Looking forward to playing the Brahms Clarinet Trio and Quintet with clarinetist, Alexander Fiterstein at Moab this coming week, and also playing with favorites of the festival, violinists Jennifer Frautschi and Arnaud Sussmann. The first concert is this coming Thursday — a Grotto Concert — an amazing experience because the rocky, secluded, outdoor natural amphitheater has fantastic acoustics. They will take a grand piano down the river early that morning, so that when we musicians arrive for our sound check, it’s a striking sight to get off the boat and walk into the red rock grotto and see a black, shiny Steinway sitting there in the sand, like a challenge to fill this already beautiful space with a different kind of music.

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