Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa

Oboe and tape; also scored for other solo instruments, such as horn, trombone, clarinet or violin. (8:15)


Checkerboard Mesa

On a summer night several years ago, an unsuspecting group of canyon tree frogs sang by a slickrock waterhole up a narrow side canyon in Zion National Park in southern Utah. Little did they know that their voices would soon be heard on concert stages all across the world. And they certainly never expected to share the bill with chirping crickets, howling coyotes, and tuxedoed classical musicians.

But hiding nearby was Utah composer Phillip Bimstein, who had stealthily placed a microphone and a digital recorder at the edge of the waterhole. He also recorded the sounds of coyotes, crickets, rocks, thunder, and the rushing waters of the Virgin River. Bimstein then played these natural sounds into his computer, where he shaped and arranged them on his synthesizer keyboard. He orchestrated the sounds into a piece of music for tape and wrote an accompanying score for a live oboe.

Bimstein subsequently arranged Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa for other solo instruments including flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trombone, tuba, violin, piano, plus a number of duet versions. The work has previously been performed at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall and has been featured on NPR and in Outside Magazine. It was performed at Merkin Hall in New York City in May 2008 and broadcast as a part of WNYC’s “New Sounds Live.”

Stephen Caplan’s performance on oboe is available on Phillip Bimstein’s Larkin Gifford’s Harmonica CD released by Starkland in 2006, and other recordings are on CDs by Stephen Caplan, oboe, Carole Lemire, horn, and Michael Dean, clarinet.

Bimstein composed Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa as a part of his three-year Meet The Composer “New Residency,” which celebrated the landscapes of southern Utah.

A fantasy for solo instrument, frogs, crickets, and coyotes.
Commissioned for Stephen Caplan by a grant from Meet The Composer’s New Residencies.
1997 premiere by Stephen Caplan, oboe, in Las Vegas.
1998 premieres by Abbie Conant, trombone, in Germany, Italy and New York, and Carole Lemire, horn, in St. Louis.
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