Sitka Archive - 2012

Sitka 2012

Sitka Campus

Sitka Center for Art and Ecology.

Find out what’s going on with Judith Linsenberg, recipient of the ARS Sitka Residency Award. Follow her blog to experience the beauty and inspiration of this wonderful location on the scenic Oregon Coast.

April 18, 2012
I arrived here a little over a week ago.  Entering the Sitka campus, an irresistible feeling of joy washed over me, as I remembered my last experience here, four years ago.  The Sitka Center and the surrounding areas are incredibly beautiful, and the staff is warm, welcoming, and amazingly supportive.

View of the Salmon River from Sitka

My first week was taken up with  unpacking, setting up my living and working space, and getting settled, as well as meeting the other residents, orientation, and a “show-and-tell” by the residents for a small group of Sitka folks. The other residents here with me this time are: Carrie, a visual artist from Washington state, who makes “artist books,” installations, and mixed media pieces using decorative paper;  Amanda, a young visual artist from Virginia, just getting started in her career, who does primarily oil painting and print-making; and Ahimsa, a multi-cultural writer and poet, originally from the Bronx, who works in “indigenous studies” and “queer people of color studies”–all people I might never meet in my everyday life. It’s already been interesting getting to know them!  At the show-and-tell, I played a Telemann fantasia and a movement from the piece Pete Rose wrote for me,  ”I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” It was great to see Jane and Frank Boyden, the co-founders of Sitka, again.

View of Sitka from my desk window

My friend Kathy drove up from California with me, so we did a bit of sight-seeing one day, including a walk on the Neskowin beach. Pretty cold  here-big change from California!

at Neskowin beach with Kathy

No trip to Otis (where the Sitka Center is located) is complete without a stop at the Otis Cafe, where we went for brunch before driving Kathy to the airport. They’re famous for their homemade molasses bread and sticky buns–yum! Otis is such a small town (basically just the Otis  Cafe, a gas station, the last remaining “Pronto Pup,” and a post office), that we ran into someone who had been at the residents’ show-and-tell the night before–a writer who’d been at another residency in the area. She had enjoyed my performance so much that she asked about other opportunities to hear me play, and so may come with her family to the Oregon Bach Festival, where I’ll be performing this summer.

the Otis Cafe

Otis post office

I have a bunch of different projects that I’m working on here–I’m learning a new Vivaldi concerto that I’ll perform in Southern California in late June; exploring some world music and jazz; practicing the chalumeau (a sort of pre-clarinet) that I’ll be playing in a concert at the Berkeley Early Music Festival in early June; and I was also inspired to start working on some of the Bach cello suites that I didn’t manage to get to last time I was here. It’s exciting to have the time and relative lack of distraction to just follow my passions while I’m here.
April 20, 2012
This is the Morley House, where I’m living. Behind the tree, you can just see the round window I look out when I’m at my desk. It’s kind of a townhouse structure, with tall ceilings in the living room, where I practice.

Here’s the front door, and a little sculpture garden above. You can see the wood pile I use for my wood stove.

One of the things that makes Sitka so cozy is that there are wood stoves in some of the residences. Last time I was here, I learned how to make a fire in a wood stove for the first time (never mind that I set the smoke alarm off once!). I’ve had to relearn the fine art of wood-stove-firemaking, and sometimes I get it right. Here’s a pic of a great fire I made where the burning wood looks (to me) like a dog with his head turned to the side, and fire coming out of his mouth:

Today I spent a good bit of time practicing my new Vivaldi concerto. It’s great to have the focused time to do this. It was raining for several days in a row, so when it finally cleared up late this afternoon, I was able to take a hike up to the top of Head–which is an awe-inspiring adventure. I made a little video travelogue, but the files seem to be too big to upload, so here are some still shots of the climb and the vistas.

the “enchanted forest”


a waterfall

ocean in the distance through the trees

first full view of the ocean

view of the sand spit

yet another awe-inspiring view

When I saw this scene, I had a visceral feeling that I had to work on more Bach. For me, the majesty and profundity of the scenery conjures up the same feeling as much of Bach’s music. This was my second trip up Cascade Head since I got here, and I got the feeling both times, so I started working on Bach’s 4th Cello Suite. It all feels connected.

view of a cove on the other side of the Head


Monday April 23, 2012

We (the residents) took advantage of the beautiful weather over the weekend to get out on the water, in canoes and kayaks. Saturday, we canoed across the estuary to the sand spit and walked on the beach; and Sunday we took the kayaks down into the estuary for a while. Each view was more beautiful than the next.

me, Ahimsa, and Amanda getting ready for the trip

view of the sand spit from our side

view down the estuary from the sand spit

Afterwards, I spent some time working on my Vivaldi concerto some more in the Morley House:

my living room/practice space in the Morley House

kayaking down the estuary

We saw several seals while we were kayaking. They just popped their heads out of the water and stared at us.  I wanted to take a  picture of them–they were so close. Amanda said I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I snapped one anyway just before they submerged in the water again.  When I got back and could see the photo I’d taken, it turned out the camera had been set on “reverse,” and I’d just taken a picture of myself!

I make sure to take a walk every day when the weather’s nice. Today I walked in the woods above my residence. When I got to a clearing at the top, I heard some noises and thought someone else must be up there. But it turned out there were 2 huge elk instead, only about 20 feet away! I was a bit worried they might trample me, but they just turned around and trotted off in the other direction. No photo possible this time!

woods, no elk

In the afternoon, I practiced for the Winds & Waves faculty concert that will take place this Friday–I’ll be playing Pete Rose’s Pendulum, with Clea Galhano, among other things–and worked on class prep for the workshop.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Well, the Winds & Waves Workshop has now come and gone. It was a real whirlwind here for a few days–45 participants and 4 teachers–great people, good food the provided for our lunches, hanging out in the evenings, and lots of fun. I taught 4 classes: Technique; Music from the Montecassino Manuscript (a 15th-century manuscript with Spanish, French, and Italian pieces); Fun Contemporary music (including works by Glen Shannon, Benjamin Thorn, Lance Eccles and others–Glen’s Jazzy Prelude & Fugue was a big hit!); and Spanish Renaissance repertoire of Tientos and Villancicos. The faculty concert with Clea, Frances Blaker and Tish Berlin was a varied program of music from the 14th through 20th centuries. We played quartets, trios, duos and solos. In addition to my duo with Clea, I also played a solo set of traditional Scottish tunes–a new interest of mine.

The faculty had a dinner at Jane and Frank Boyden’s the night before the workshop. Here’s Clea talking to Frank on his prehistoric phone:

Frank talks to Clea on prehistoric phone

And here’s Clea talking to herself (?) on the bone phone:

Clea on bone phone

It’s amazing how Sitka transforms when a lot of people are around–a lot of energy and activity. Luckily, we actually had a couple of very beautiful sunny days while they were all here. Now that they’ve all left, I’m settling back into the Sitka I’ve come to know and love: quiet, peaceful, and rain again, which just seems to contribute to the cozy atmosphere of staying inside with my wood stove, and getting back to my work. In addition to continuing work on my Vivaldi concerto, I’m looking for a special solo piece to play at the final Residents’ Show & Tell on May 12th–Carrie, the visual/installation artist resident has offered to collaborate with me by making me a kind of backdrop or mini-stage in which to perform my special piece. Very exciting!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Carrie and I decided on a piece that spoke to her, and for which she’ll make some backdrops out of decorative paper: a traditional Japanese folk song, The Horsewalker’s Song (Eashi Oiwake). It’s a haunting melody, usually played on the shakuhachi (Japanese end-blown flute), with lots of bent notes and shakuhachi-like ornamentation–a piece I’ve wanted to work on for a while now. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

Today, Frank Boyden took a few of us out to see Grass Mountain, the site of a future residency he’s planning: 80 acres of gorgeous woods and meadows with spectacular views of the forest and the ocean, and even a pond.

tree at Grass Mountain

pond with reflections


I brought my recorders to test out the sound in a kind of natural amphitheatre. I played some Bach, some of the Vivaldi sopranino concerto, and van Eyck’s English Nightingale to see if I could get the birds to answer me. (they did, but only later!) My audience said the sound was good. It was a really fun experience to play in such a beautiful place in nature.

Bach at Grass Mountain

English Nightingale at Grass Mountain

Afterwards, Frank took us wild-mushroom hunting, and we collected some delicious oyster mushrooms that I then cooked up for lunch. Yum. It’s amazing the things you can experience here!

Frank collecting oyster mushrooms

Sunday, May 6 2012

After a great afternoon with Frank yesterday, and a potluck dinner with the Cascade Head Ranch homeowners, Amanda, Carrie and I climbed up Cascade Head under a full moon.  The experience was truly awesome–the dark of the mountains contrasting with the glow of estuary and ocean below lit up by the moon was, in a word (no pun intended) ineffable.

me on the Head under the full moon

You can’t really get the effect from the picture–it just proves I was there!  We watched the moon rise higher, over the course of an hour, mostly not talking, but just taking in the experience.  I’d brought my recorder and was really inspired to play up there. I played some Scottish tunes–it just seemed appropriate for the setting. In the next photo, if you look closely, you can just make out my “moon shadow” in the foreground.

moon on Cascade Head with shadow

Just know that these photos don’t do the experience justice. It was an incredibly moving experience for me, one that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  What a great day!

Monday, May 14, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Things have gotten very busy around here! A couple of days after the full moon hike, my recorder colleague, Vicki Boeckman, arrived to rehearse with me for both the Residents’ Final Show-and-Tell and for an upcoming concert we’re doing together at the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene (July 9th).  It was great to have her here–we worked hard, reading through and choosing music for both concerts, and then rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing! (which is not to say we didn’t take time out to hike, walk on the beach, and drink wine around the fire of my wood stove–all the things one does at Sitka!).

One sunny day we took the hike up to the lower viewpoint of Cascade Head with Jane Boyden and had a picnic there, courtesy of Vicki’s forethought! And here’s a picture of a sunset from the beach in Lincoln City.

For the Show-and-Tell, we chose a short, but eclectic program: Intro by Willem Wander van Nieuwkerk, a set of Bulgarian dance tunes and a slow Sephardic song, and an arrangement of the Bach double violin concerto for 2 recorders (fun!). Here we are at the performance:

I’m not really that short; it’s just that Vicki’s tall!

For me, one of the most rewarding parts of my Sitka experience has been my collaboration with Carrie. I spent the better part of a week listening to shakuhachi music and working on my piece. Periodically, I would play it for Carrie, and she would show me what she’d been working on for the backdrop. When she hung it, it was better than I could ever have imagined–incredibly beautiful and totally complemented the character of the music. I was really touched and moved that she created something so beautiful for me to perform with.

Again, as with the full moon over Cascade Head, the photos do not do the installation justice–there are many textures and subtleties that cannot be seen. It’s a combination of watercolors on wet paper, with screens in front of and behind beautiful textured paper, and “decorated” with discs made of shell-like material. The decorative discs really captured the shakuhachi-like ornaments in the piece–much of which I  improvised on the spot. And she hung it from pieces of driftwood she’d collected on walks here.  Amazing. Eventually, there will be a video, but for now, try to imagine the sound of a shakuhachi in this beautiful setting. I think the whole was way more than the sum of its parts. It was truly a moving experience for me, and I feel honored to have been able to collaborate with Carrie on this project.

Carrie’s Japanese installation

performing Esahi Oiwake with Carrie’s installation

Here’s a link to a video of the performance:

Friday, May 18, 2012

A bittersweet day–my last day at Sitka. Is it possible to be “in love” with a place? Because I’ve definitely fallen in love with Sitka, all over again. It’s really hard to leave.  There’s something magical about this place. Not sure whether it’s the incredible natural environment surrounding the center–Cascade Head, the estuary, the sand spit, the ocean–incredible view after incredible view; or the warm, supportive, and helpful staff here, every one of whom it seems their sole purpose is to make my stay here as comfortable and productive as possible; or the other residents, all so different, and yet we connected on a deep level. I learned so much from each of them, and got the chance to see the world, for a time, through their eyes. Walking on the beach, Amanda sees a beautiful shell I would have just walked over; coming home from a hike, Carrie picks up something I would have used as kindling for my wood stove and turns it into a piece of art; interesting talks with Ahimsa and new ways of looking at things; the intermittent encounters with Frank Boyden, co-founder of Sitka, whose enthusiasm and excitement about life and art are palpable and contagious, whether it be about the creation of a new residency center, incredible artist books he’s created, or a toy dinosaur that hatches itself from a shell. My life is so much richer for my encounters with all of them.

Cascade Head just before sunset

“hatched” dinosaur


And the time, in a beautiful, peaceful environment to connect with nature, connect with myself, and connect with my music in a deep and intense way has been a real gift–something I desperately needed, but wasn’t even aware of it until I got it here at Sitka. It allowed me to experiment with genres of music I haven’t spent much time with, like world music and jazz; time to woodshed my new Vivaldi concerto; time to learn about traditional shakuhachi music and jump into improvising in that style; and time to pick up my old project of the Bach organ trios and start (finally!) preparing them for publication. What a gift.

I’m so grateful to all of the people who had a part in making it possible for me to have this experience that has been so meaningful to me: my students who’ve supported me; the Oregon Coast Recorder Society who created and maintain the Sitka Recorder Residency; the ARS’s Sitka Residency Grant; Jane and Frank Boyden who created this magical place; the Sitka staff; and my fellow residents. Thank you all.

P.S. You may be wondering how I could leave such a magical and amazing place. Well, the answer is, I couldn’t. Evidence of the magic that surrounds this place: a couple of weeks ago, I was taking a walk on the Cascade Head ranch, thinking how sad I would be when it was time to leave. I passed by a house with a couple sitting on their porch, looking out over the ocean. We said hello, chatted a bit, and they mentioned they were getting ready to go on a trip. We said goodbye, and I continued on my walk. They were still there when I passed by again on my way back, and although it was a total long shot, I knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t ask them if they needed a housesitter. Well, long story short, here I am for a few more days, housesitting for people I didn’t know 2 weeks ago, in a gorgeous house overlooking the ocean. Not bad, huh?

View from “my” new place

P.P.S. May 21, 2012

Well, I finally got to see those elk–out “my” back window:

elk grazing out back