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Installation offers a new soundscape at Spa State Park



Categories: -The Daily Gazette, Entertainment

By Indiana Nash

Visitors exploring the trails at Saratoga Spa State Park are familiar with a symphony of sounds; from the rush of running water to the trills of birds in the trees.

Starting Monday, they will have the chance to hear a new kind of soundscape.

Called the Ellen Reid Soundwalk, visitors can participate in a music and nature experience using a GPS app. It was created by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid and co-commissioned by the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, among other organizations.

It premiered earlier this month in Central Park in New York City, featuring different pieces of music depending on where visitors walk using the apps map. For PSPC attendees, there will be Easter Eggs along the way to find that incorporate music from the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Soundwalk is timely work and meant to be experienced on your own.

An interesting thing about an experiment like this is that it has to work in all directions. You can’t organize the way anyone will experience it, Reid told The Gazette in a recent interview. Someone can start walking on either side of the path or on the other side of the path, and they must move in any direction as well.

Reid came up with the idea a few years ago, after visiting a park near his New York apartment and noticing how many people seemed to have a personal connection with the place.

I started to think about that and how beautiful it was. It really inspired me to create a musical space to accommodate all of these different experiences, Reid said.

While at the start of this year the idea was on the back burner, in March it was moved to the forefront of Reids projects.

When the pandemic struck and many concerts were canceled and everyone in the spring, summer and fall [plans] started to change, we realized that this project could come to fruition now and that it would take on such a different meaning. It would be more essential and more poetic than we initially imagined, Reid said. It was good to do something that could be fully experienced right now.

She worked with nearly a dozen other musicians to record music earlier this year.

The first thing I wrote is the topic of PSPC. It’s a theme that was inspired by water and it has that crystalline high ostinato running through and it feels like the sparkle of the water and these different melodies that occur in different key signatures that flow together as you you move into the promenade, said Reid.

The path marked on the map in the app is approximately one mile long. It features the Vale and Geyser Springs and when participants pass through certain areas, musical cells are triggered and will play the corresponding piece in Reids’ work.

Any creative path is filled with challenges, but the cool thing about Soundwalk is that the challenge is also part of what makes it special, which is that the technology develops and so does the building of the experience.

So we were working with this living, breathable and real technology that evolves to adapt to experience and experience evolves to adapt to technology. There’s this interesting dance between the app and the music and the capabilities of the GPS and the experience and trying to find the farthest point where we can take it all together, so it’s been incredibly collaborative, said Reid.

The piece is part of the 2020 season of SPAC Reimagined. As the performing arts center had to cancel its originally planned concerts and performances due to the coronavirus pandemic, including residencies with the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra, PSPC offered virtual programs and collaborated with community members to present health and wellness courses.

Many of them were firsts for SPAC and Soundwalk is no different.

Bringing this project to our park is part of our vision to connect the unique beauty of our natural surroundings… lush pines, woodland walks, geysers and natural springs… with art and music, said Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of PSPC, in a statement. .

We were thrilled that Saratoga was only the second location, after NYC, to showcase the facility and thrilled to offer this unique art / nature experience to visitors to Saratoga Spa State Park.

Soundwalk will be available from Monday and will run until November 1. The app is called Ellen Reid Soundwalk, and it’s free to download. For more information, visit

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