full story walkthrough
Old Survivor is the name of a tree in Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, in Oakland, California. The tree is about 470 years old, and it's the last remaining old growth redwood in the Oakland Hills. The area was logged heavily from 1845-1860, then again from 1906 until 1916, when the park was purchased by Oakland to preserve the remaining redwoods.
This piece is written from the perspective of Old Survivor. It starts with some growth and reaching up, until its neighbors are logged (mm. 29-36). Then growing back, somber and reflective but hopeful, then there's logging again (mm. 153-170), and growing back again. I think this piece is about how grief or loss or trauma can change a person, or a community.
Here's a detailed walkthrough of what the piece makes me think of. It's not meant to be prescriptive, any other interpretation is fine with me!
1-7: Old Survivor first beginning to grow, reaching up, waking up, stretching.
8-21: Building into stronger growth, variations on the initial theme in m. 8, which is the primary musical material in my mind, especially the 3 rising scalar notes in a row.
21-28: More growth, Old Survivor and the other trees rising up to a great height.
29-37: Many of Old Survivor's neighbors in the forest are logged.
38-67: Tender new growth in the forest, rebirth. Things are growing back, it's a little melancholy and reflective but hopeful.
68-76: Initial theme of Old Survivor's growth, but now minor, more somber, changed by the logging in 29-36. The initial theme is the embodiment of the individuality of Old Survivor, its personal, private moments. At 72-76 there’s a physical expression of feeling, a restrained outburst, with falling 6ths that soften a bit at 75.
77-85: This next section's perspective is from the forest as a whole again, the trees and plants that are left behind and weren't logged, along with Old Survivor. Even though the forest is growing back, a lot has changed, it’s forlorn, bereft, a bit despairing.
86-107: A reflection of the rising material from 21-28, but less directed and less confident, moving forward with things, but turned more inwardly and more guarded.
108-152: We see some signs that things are improving, with moments of change with the G# and then the C#, new sparks of feeling and excitement. The new growth of the forest gains speed and confidence, there's exuberance, joy, it’s like dancing, rising up more similarly to mm. 21-28, reaching up...
153-169: Old Survivor's neighbors are logged again. This time it's complete, the remaining old-growth trees that weren't logged the first time around are now gone.
170-187: The initial theme in minor (like mm. 68-76), but in a new key with the C# we picked up in m. 120. This is another private and inward-looking moment for Old Survivor. There’s loneliness, uncertainty, feeling like a ghost of its old self. Like 72, there's a physical expression of feeling at 184 with falling 6ths, softening at 186.
188-229: A restatement and reinterpretation of the rebirth section from mm. 38-67. It's much more dynamic and exciting than before, things are growing again, and this time they're determined to keep growing. This becomes insistent, all-consuming, all-encompassing. The forest is filling up with new trees.
230-end: The new growth has happened, but doesn't change the fact that Old Survivor is the only one left from its generation of old-growth trees, so there’s more space and alone-ness here, it’s a more reflective and introspective moment. The high A in 235 leads into a brief moment of more passion and externalized emotion that's quickly subdued and made internal again. There's an overt reassertion of Old Survivor's continued persistence in 242-243, saying "I am still here and still going", whether that's convincing or not. The last few measures may be Old Survivor fading away to obscurity, or Old Survivor letting these events fade into memory. It ends a bit unresolved, but not entirely unpleasant. The feeling is something like wistfulness, or the way I've seen wabi-sabi described, as "serene melancholy and a spiritual longing.”
Performed by Jason Wells
bass with open inst.
Performed by Jason Wells and 10th Wave
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