Featured in The Ashland Independent Film Festival, Thursday, April 12 and Sunday, April 15!
The new half-hour documentary artfully portrays the world premiere of “Natural History,” the powerful composition by Michael Gordon inspired by and performed at Oregon’s breathtaking Crater Lake. The original musical work, commissioned by the Britt Music & Arts Festival in honor of the centennial of America’s National Park Service, brought members of the Britt Orchestra together with a diverse ensemble of musicians, including the Klamath tribe family drum group Steiger Butte Singers, regional choristers, brass and percussionists, conducted by Music Director Teddy Abrams. “We started with what would be the most spectacular moving experience we could think of–that’s always a good place to start,” said Abrams.
Underlying this collaboration is the connection originally forged by 19th century photographer, Peter Britt, whom the music festival is named after, and whose former estate in Jacksonville, Oregon now serves as home for the summer concert series. Peter Britt took the first photograph of Crater Lake, an image that played a major role in the creation of the national park, and forever linked Crater Lake with the Britt Music & Arts Festival.
As the film reveals, Crater Lake has been a source of inspiration to human beings for thousands of years. Fed by rain and snow, it’s the deepest lake in the U.S. and one of the most pristine on earth. Gordon researched and worked on his composition over the course of a year, culminating in the premiere of “Natural History” at Watchman’s Overlook on the rim of Crater Lake in July 2016. Gordon’s captivating, organic music celebrates the park’s natural wonders and the communities that surround it: he envisioned his composition as “an experiential spectacle….It’s about our relationship to the natural world,” said Gordon in the film. “There’s a Crater Lake symphony going on all year long, we’re just going to add our voices to it.”
Gordon met with the Steiger Butte Singers during his artist-in-residency at Crater Lake, also known as “giiwas” to the Klamath people. Giiwas translates to “spiritual place.” His meeting with the Klamath drum group, along with his research about how historical figures like Henry David Thoreau and early pioneers thought about nature, influenced both the music and the text of “Natural History.”
To create the documentary, director Anne Flatté and her crew recorded rehearsals, interviews and the performances. “It was essential to show the dynamic interaction between this extraordinary work of musical art and the spectacular setting, and also include historical photos and legends that help reveal the eternal power of Crater Lake,” said Flatté. “The movie will allow many more people to experience the vision, sound and spirit of this once-in-a-lifetime musical collaboration.”