Walden, revisited

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts
31 October 2014 – 26 April 2015

Thoreau's Desk, premiere recording 30 October 2014 (destroyed)

Thoreau's Desk, premiere recording 30 October 2014 (destroyed)

Every sound is music now.
                                                      Henry David Thoreau, 1851

Thoreau’s Desk (requires some assembly) is a music composition for percussion trio. Its instrumentation includes tools and materials for building an abstraction of Henry David Thoreau's writing desk. When construction is complete the music stops. On each occasion the piece is performed, a new object is built as material expression of time's signature.

The work is inspired by the chapter in Walden devoted to “Sounds," wherein Thoreau sets his household furnishings “out on the grass,” and “They seemed . . . as if unwilling to be brought back in.” Other sources include Water Walk, which composer John Cage performed in 1960 before a live audience for the popular American television show, “I’ve Got a Secret.”  Yet another precedent includes the modernist Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld’s 1934 writing desk built of shipping crate materials. The object produced by the musicians performing Thoreau’s Desk (requires some assembly) appears no closer to such models, however, than Picasso’s 1915 Violin resembles the musical instrument that inspired it.

Music score

Music score

First  movement

First  movement

Excerpt from performance at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum on 31 January 2015