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Nature Sounds

Listen to excerpt from The Feral Sax

  From the Land of Many Rivers


A Word About The Feral Sax, the final track of From the Land of Many Rivers

Liner Notes by author Joe Hutto

Music, like physics, chemistry and mathematics is not so much something that the human species has invented but rather expressions of universal principles that have, through intuition and intellect, been revealed to us. And like physics and mathematics, music is a means of exploring the nature of the universe and our existential relationship to that universe.

Music is many things but in its purest form it is perhaps not a language with lines, verse and voice, but rather a more fundamental expression involving the reciprocity and dichotomy of opposition. It is the incremental division of time into meter and periodicity—the orbit of the moon, the rising of the sun, the rhythmic dripping of water or the beating of a heart. Time and space are thus joined by principles of vibrational harmony and by the tendency of the universe to reveal the most elegant organization out of the most apparent chaos.

In forty years as a peripherally professional musician, I have had perhaps three or four occasions in which I experienced something extraordinary—mystical epiphany, the direct connection to something infinitely more vast than ourselves, revelation—call it what you will. Excepting the meager prospect of monetary sustenance, the possibility of that rare and fleeting moment of transcendence is what sustains suffering musicians for decades.

One late spring night I accompanied a large, soft spoken, gentle man into a remote area of the Apalachicola National Forest. Sammy Tedder is a multifaceted artist, musician, composer and friend to many. Although a most humble man, Sam is old growth. Tall, straight and tight grained, his temperament has left him limber and resilient however, and thus the winds of time and circumstance have left him only the stronger. Fifty some odd years cannot account for Sammy’s substance—he is an old soul.

We had occasionally been involved in the collection of wilderness night sounds: frogs, toads, owls, insects, thunder, wind and the gentle movement of water—the music of the earth.

This particular night, in addition to a portable recorder and two good microphones, Sammy included his soprano saxophone. We set up our gear as the moon rose through the pines across a small shallow pond. Already resounding with several species of chorusing frogs and insects, a nearby barred owl called.

After recording several minutes of night sounds, Sammy retrieved his horn and without any plan or discussion, said he would walk to the opposite side of the pond, 50 yards or so, and signal me in the dim moonlight to begin recording. Sammy walked, and seeing the sweep of his hand, I pushed the record button. Gently, the horn began to interweave with the sounds of the still night and busy pond. To my astonishment the pond seemed to embrace this new voice as merely one of its own. And so without interference or interruption a primeval chorus began—an ancient annual ritual and celebration with a tradition of a million years. Immediately I realized that something extraordinary was occurring. In his humble way Sammy was not competing for space among the many other voices, but began in his own voice to express the song that all life sings.

It is a brave act for a creature to cry out in the night, balancing the prospect of joy and regeneration with the absolute certainty of eventual mortality. These are the fundamental expressions of the common experience of all living things. All individual life is bounded by certain existential extremes: bravery and fear, tragedy and exuberant joy, the thrill of living and the despair and hopelessness of pain and death. Absolute bliss is measured with absolute suffering—balance, time and harmony—the universal dance of life poised momentarily on "the edge of a razor". This primeval way of knowing is the wildness that still lives in each of our hearts. Sammy accessed the wildness in his heart that night and we are all the richer.

As my eyes filled with tears, I knew that I was a privileged witness to a rare moment in time. I could hear only one song and knew that we, all living things, are but one spirit.

So be still, quiet and pay attention; listen carefully, perhaps in a dark room, and be privileged also to share in this rare moment as the bounds of our narrow human experience are transcended. Know that there is only one song and it is life.

Joe Hutto

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