Composing a Landscape Pt. 3: Willow Sanctuary

By Katie Kramer

Willow trees are stunningly captivating. They seem to be moving, even without a breeze. The gentle droopiness of their cascading branches creates a curtain of intimacy beneath them. The calming and harmless nature of willow trees always puts me at ease. One of the important elements of the Willow Sanctuary Design Build was that the willow tree should be preserved, as it was a part of the client’s home.

With the home’s Contemporary style, I decided to write a Contemporary piece of music to represent this outdoor environment. The beginning of the Contemporary era of music began with Impressionism during the late 1800s to the early 1900s. This style was influenced by the art and poetry created during this time and mainly focused on originality since artists were against being classified as “Romantic.” Because of this, composers rejected the rules of music theory that were set in stone for centuries. They used dissonances regularly, created complex rhythms, and composed music that was much more percussive. I took inspiration from Claude Debussy (although he strongly disliked being called an Impressionist) and composed a piece for solo piano:

For the composition, I decided to not stray too much from the home key to create a peaceful sensation of being where one is meant to be, or making one feel at home. The music is constantly in motion, as are the branches of a willow tree. Dissonance was sprinkled throughout the piece to evoke emotion. The deep bass notes were meant to serve as a structure to the piece, as well as symbolizing the structure of the wraparound deck at Willow Sanctuary. The sixteenth notes in the middle of the piece represented the trickling water in the water feature.

Music is more impactful than we may believe. Classical music can help us work faster, work more efficiently, and it can improve memory. Music can influence the way we think. During the Third Reich, music used at Nazi rallies inspired people to join the movement, regardless of whether or not they morally agreed with Hitler. We feel such strong pulls to certain beats that we have no choice but to dance. Centuries ago (as well as in the present), some types of music and even some modes were forbidden because they had such a strong influence on listeners that those in charge feared the music’s power.

Think about your commute into work. Do you have a better day after a silent drive or after you listen to your favorite radio station or your favorite playlist on your phone? With that in mind, think about your surrounding landscape. You are the composer of your yard’s symphony. You can determine the instrumentation, the tempo, and the feeling of the piece. Listen and observe your environment to tweak your music to your heart’s content. What does your dream outdoor environment sound like?

Matching aesthetic and musicality creates seamless flow from the inside, out. Photography by David Winger.

Composing a Landscape is a series by Katie Kramer. Read the previous part of the series here: Part 1 – The Impact of Music, and Part 2 – Red Renaissance.