Soundwalk is nearing the end of its run at Spa State Park


SARATOGA SPRINGS — In a few weeks, the music at Saratoga Spa State Park will be quiet.

Soundwalk, the nature-inspired musical journey that winds along the park’s creek and through its forest, will be muted on June 1. That’s why Chris Shiley, vice president of programming at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, urges nature and music lovers to find time to experience the musical installation before it’s gone.

“It’s beautifully written, beautifully composed,” said Shiley, who helped composer Ellen Reid set up her Soundwalk, an experience that allows anyone walking through the park to listen to music that reflects the surrounding nature. “Ellen was very inspired by the park, the setting and the beauty of the area. That’s why we relaunched it last May with a version that covers almost the entire park.

It’s free and easy to access by downloading the Ellen Reid Soundwalk phone app. Then, head to the walking trails of Spa State Park, such as the Avenue of the Pines, Geyser Loop Road, and Picnic Lane. Listeners need only press the start button on the app, plug their phone into headphones (highly recommended for quality) to be immersed in a soundscape where nature – chirping birds, ripples of streams and rustling leaves – is superimposed by the sounds of a trilling flute or a soothing harp.

“We thought a lot about what sounds should be reflected in that moment,” Shiley said of Reid’s compositions. “There was a lot of thought on his part to match the music to where you were in nature.”

Reid calls Soundwalk a self-directed public art installation that allows music to follow park visitors anywhere, anytime, and for any duration.

“Soundwalk is designed to be with the listener wherever they are,” said Reid, who piloted the project with SPAC in 2020. ‘a new way they’ve never experienced before.. There’s no one right way.

She describes her music as “a spectrum of sounds” that includes chamber music, synth sounds and jazz “all woven together seamlessly as you walk”.

His inspiration for the project, which has since been installed in numerous parks in the United States and abroad, came from his love for urban parks and the realization that music “makes us see things differently. “.

“The impetus was public parks and people’s relationship with public parks,” Reid said. “(Spa State Park) is such a beautiful park. I’m just glad it can work.

Soundwalk is just one of many projects Reid is involved in that include opera, sound design, film scores, and ensemble and choral works. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer is also the co-founder of Luna Lab, a program aimed at uplifting female composers who identify as non-binary and gender-nonconforming. She is also Creative Advisor and Composer-in-Residence for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, all upcoming concerts and projects were canceled or postponed, giving her time to focus on Soundwalk. But since there was no trip, Shiley became her back-up in the park, giving Reid remote tours of the landscape with her phone.

“I was his boots on the ground,” Shiley said. “I was walking in the park and had her on FaceTime. I was showing her everything. She came in just before we launched the project to put the finishing touches on it, but all the initial work was done while walking on FaceTime.

It started in a limited area in 2020, but expanded four times the walking distance with 10 times the audio to encompass the entire park in 2021. Reid did it, she said, because she was so inspired by the park, one of the most popular.

“Spa State Park is a great place for Soundwalk because it has open fields, tall pines, and a really wide variety of landscapes that really work well for Soundwalk,” she said. “I really enjoyed programming the project because there was so much substance to the park itself. … Everything was really positive.


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