Petit Suite, Glick
Driving south from Montreal, I found myself envelopped by mesmerizing mountains of mid-state Vermont and, on an impulse, followed signs off the interstate to look for some magical acoustics in an abandonned quarry. I hoped it wasn’t too far away – I had miles to go before I would see Boston’s skyline – and with the late afternoon sun slanting in from the west and valuable daylight ebbing, it turned out to be ‘elusive quarry’! I made a couple of wrong turns and comically ended up going in circles, doubling back along otherwise scenic, winding roads. I finally found what I was looking for: this massive man-made hole in the earth, long-since flooded in.
Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has produced an extensive body of work documenting with equisite precision the mines and quarries in many countries: ” ‘quarries…are places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.’ (Burtynsky’s) images of these plundered landscapes are simultaneously beautiful and disquieting.” *
But what to play? I tried noodling on some arpeggios, but was too distracted from having been on the road all day, not to mention that I had brazenly ignored the ‘NO TRESPSSING’ sign at the top of the gravel road! I finally settled on a Canadian composition: somehow the improvistory opening movement of Srul Irving Glick‘s Petit Suite pour Flute suited the place. Written for my teacher, Robert Aitken, it simply seemed like the perfect piece…sometimes it’s hard to explain these things at the time.
And it is only now as I post this that I suddenly realize the connection, as it was John Irving‘s book A Prayer for Owen Meany that effectively had led me to this place! Owen Meany’s DISTINCTIVELY PENETRATING NARRATIVE STYLE made a real impression on me years ago, and I believe it was this book in Irving’s extensive oeuvre in which the whole world of quarries in New England was wonderfully described. As you may already know, Irving spends part of his time living in Toronto, and some wonderful passages can be found in his work describing Toronto’s Ravines and Valleys.
The acoustics here were quick and precise, and admittedly I was initially disappointed; however if you listen carefully, you can hear the dry report off the limestone walls, the sound of the flue travelling swiftly over the smooth expanse of water. Certainly the history and atmosphere of this outdoor amphitheater more than make up for any subtlety of the echo!