by Aram Shelton



In the summer of 2013, Shelton visited the Canyonlands region of southeastern Utah. He was enthralled by the geography and its wide open, slowly changing landscape, interspersed by geological features both unique and memorable. He took several hikes while in the area, choosing destinations via trail map and taking routes which were sometimes direct, other times meandering. Inspired by the landscape and his experiences, Shelton composed a set of non-linear, improvisation-centric scores by repurposing trail maps of the Canyonlands National Park as the basis for a graphic score, and created game piece rules influenced by the act of hiking.

With an ensemble of reeds, strings and percussion, the music of Canyonlands uses long sustained sounds (via circular breathing and bowing) to invoke the wide vistas of the landscape, and register extremes to parallel the temperature differences between day and night. The various timbres are on display as well: dry & cool sounds from the vibraphone & reeds, warmth & grit from the strings. The compositions are not meant to be played in a linear way, instead performers cue the ensemble to move towards a destination (a trail intersection) where lies a musical micro-composition. Each player chooses their own route to the cued destination and the graphic elements dictate improvisational emphasis: rhythm, texture, melody. The end result of the music is dependent on the improvising style and real time musical choices of the performers, while there are enough specific musical motifs that ensure a consistency between performances.

The following have joined me on hIkes in performances: James Fei, Anton Hatwich, Mark Clifford, Kristina Dutton, Britt Ciampa, Safa Shokrai, Teddy Rankin-Parker, Jason Adasiewicz, Keefe Jackson and Owen Stewart-Robertson.


released April 8, 2014


tags: jazz Oakland


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Aram Shelton Oakland, California

improviser, composer. saxophone, electronics, clarinet. In Oakland, California the projects Sound Quartet, Tonal Masher, Broken Trap Ensemble, and Ton Trio II represent his music. He is connected to Chicago through the cooperative sextet Fast Citizens (Delmark), and Jason Adasiewicz’ Rolldown (Cuneiform). ... more

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