Nicholas Cline - Watersheds

November 5, 2018

Donald Nally conducts the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble in the world premiere of Nicholas Cline's Watersheds, with tenor saxophone soloist Joseph Connor and vocal soloists Walter Aldrich, Olivia Prendergast, and Emma Rothfield.

Prelude: water-witching
I. Water borders
II. The lace-like fabric of streams
III. A method for finding
IV. To encourage the habits of industry
V. Threads of the community fabric
VI. Rain follows the plow
VII. The gentle rain which waters

A note from the composer:

Often those who turn to the ancient practice of divination do so not out of a belief that it will work, but that it must. A dry well is a crisis. “Water witching,” as it is known in rural America, is a way of coping with one’s environment under conditions of uncertainty and anxiety. The water witch—like the hydrogeologist—is concerned with imagining underground flows of water.

Watersheds is a work for choir, tenor saxophone, and electronics. As the spaces which separate the flow of water, watersheds define the borders of this shared resource. The texts juxtapose varied and distinctly American attitudes toward water. The meditations of Muir and Thoreau convey a sense of permanence and power in water’s ability to shape and nourish the land. These observations are contrasted with the urgency that comes with too little water. Mary Austin describes the “destiny” of streams to become irrigation for crops. The Supreme Court decision known as the Winters Doctrine set the legal precedent for Native American water rights, citing the necessity of water for self-sufficiency. C.D. Wilber promotes the false propaganda that westward expansion would lead to increased precipitation: “rain follows the plow.” Rachel Carson warns that the health of the land, water, and all living things are inextricably bound.

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