Ellen Reid’s SoundWalk

Ellen Reid is a sound artist who creates custom music linked to specific landscapes. This morning my wife and I sampled her newest project at Ijams Nature Center here in Knoxville.

Ijams is a 300 acre natural area a few minutes from downtown. Trails both paved and unpaved wind through the park, and for a group of these Reid composed music that can be downloaded to a smartphone along with the SoundWalk app, which uses GPS to match each particular piece to the specific trail the listener is walking. Performances by the Kronos Quartet as well as a group of fifteen musicians (the SoundWalk Ensemble) created the sonic landscapes to accompany the physical ones.

Ms. Reid has done SoundWalks in a dozen locations before turning her creative energy to Ijams, from Athens, Greece, to Central Park in NYC and to Wolf Trap, from Golden Gate Park to Fairmont Park in Philadelphia, and more. The Knoxville project is being presented by Big Ears, the same organization that creates the yearly Big Ears Festival and, some five years ago, brought John Luther Adams to Ijams for a performance of Inuksuit.

Ijams is a beautiful place, and SoundWalk adds another dimension to the enjoyment of the trails there. If you can make it to Ijams, I highly recommend the experience. Suzanne and I will definitely be returning to walk the trails we haven’t traveled yet, and probably revisit the ones we have. The SoundWalk is scheduled to run for one year, and I look forward to the changes in the experience as we move through the seasons.

There is no charge for enjoying the trails at Ijams, and the SoundWalk app is also a free download.

Many thanks to Ellen Reid for a fine listening experience that I’ll be enjoying several more times this coming year, and to Ashley Capps and the folks at Big Ears for another high quality musical experience for those of us lucky enough to take advantage of it. Also, to the staff at Ijams for providing us with such a wide variety of opportunities, from trails to canoeing to musical performances to movie showings, art exhibits, educational programs, and I’m sure I’m leaving out many other things. Y’all do good work.

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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