Walkers and runners along the trails of Saratoga Spa State Park will be privy to an atmospheric soundscape starting next week.
As part of an installation called “Ellen Reid Soundwalk,” park-goers can use a GPS-enabled app that plays certain compositions depending on their location. Reid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, first premiered a version of Soundwalk in Central Park last fall. She went on to set up Soundwalks in several other parks, including one for a short time in Saratoga last fall, as co-commissioned by the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
“It’s a really fun challenge to take what I’ve learned about the project and bring it back here and integrate the new music and a new philosophy around it with the original programming,” Reid said.
This time around, the installation is much larger in scope. Running from May 20 through June 1, 2022, it stretches from the Avenue of the Pines and throughout the park’s entire trail system, with new themes and compositions.
Some of the songs are quite ambient, with soft synth sounds crescendoing depending on where one is at the park.
“The music is written so that there is room for the listeners’ thoughts and experiences,” Reid said. “It’s not coming at you and grabbing you.”
Other songs are more dramatic and rhythmic, and there’s something cinematic about the entire experience.
“I think that our brains are used to watching music support things and now you’re basically designing your own score for your walk,” Reid said.
The music doesn’t stop if one stands in place either.
“If you were to stop here you would be in the story as long as you want to be here and some of the themes you would walk through in two minutes but the actual theme is a nine-minute [song],” Reid said.
Most of the music was recorded by more than a dozen musicians last summer, though only a fraction of it was used in the first iteration of Soundwalk.
In this new version, listeners who went on the first Soundwalk in Saratoga may hear some familiar themes, along with many new ones.
“I was also imagining that people would want to come back and hear what they’d heard before so I didn’t want to scrap it,” Reid said. “So I kept the core of what was there before and built to it in a different way that allows for it to expand.”
“Over the past year, SPAC and the Saratoga Spa State Park have served as a haven and refuge for our community,” said Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of SPAC. “And last fall, during some of the darkest days of the pandemic, Soundwalk gave listeners the unique ability to experience beautiful, newly-composed music while walking the paths of the Park. We are delighted to be re-launching the project in a much more substantial way for the public to enjoy for an entire year.”
Many who have journeyed through Soundwalk have reached out to thank Reid for the experience.
“I think we’re just starved for artistic connection and this project is meant to be heard this way it’s not meant to be heard any other way. It’s meant to be heard on headphones, socially distanced. I would encourage people to not even walk with a friend. Just do it yourself,” Reid said.
Soundwalk has made Reid view the park in a different light, from the trees to the winding pathways. She hopes that listeners, whether they participated in the first Soundwalk or not, will share that same experience.
The app, called Ellen Reid Soundwalk, is free to download and people listeners can download the map for the Saratoga Spa State Park before or after arriving. For more information visit spac.org.
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