The Desert Suite

For many years (1993-2007) I lived in New Mexico, specifically Los Alamos, where I worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a physicist is the Technical Division, researching nonlinear waves and other nonlinear phenomenon, and also renewable energy technologies. Los Alamos is situated on the Pajarito (“pa-ha-REE-toe”) Plateau, a broad swath of volcanic tuff that stretches out from the Jemez (“Hay-mez”) Mountains that form the rim of a massive complex of volcanos that created the Plateau about 1 million years ago. The Plateau is riven with canyons carved out by the water which flows down to the Rio Grande. The following photos and captions paint a picture of this incredible landscape:

During those years, I lived right on the edge of one of the canyons. I began journeying into them on occasion with my guitar, utilizing a drone tuning that I had developed years before one night while playing to an electrical storm, and composing “Stoneflower“: Tuning the lowest two strings down one full step. This creates a nice drone in the lower end that one can over on the upper strings. And of course the guitar has an incredibly beautiful sound. And of course it’s an intrinsically rhythmic instrument, which can be played a tempo matching one’s footsteps.

On these walks in New Mexico I would often leave early on a Saturday morning, park at a trailhead somewhere, and walk anywhere from a few to upwards of 20 miles, playing softly the entire time, and arriving back at my car in the evening. Over the years – 14 in all – I eventually built up a large set of different themes this way, all created in response to each of the landscapes I was walking through, each one reflective of that place. I have no photographs of myself doing this, but here is photo my playing to the landscape that someone took in Vermont, around the time this adventure began, playing something reflective of that place:

Playing to the landscape in Vermont.

In 2008 I relocated to Vermont, and some years later I started playing these pieces with my wife Janice. She created beautiful sweeping keyboard parts to go along, and we finally recorded them. Here is a video version of the album that resulted, that we showed at the CD Release Party. The inside cover with the song titles appears below. Note that the first piece takes awhile to fade in!

Here is the Desert Suite album as embedded from Bandcamp, where it can be purchased for download and also freely streamed.