Mesa Verde Soundscapes
2014 / Jill Haley
Review by Kathy Parsons
Jill Haley’s Mesa Verde Soundscapes is the third in a series of albums inspired by US National Parks. During a two-week stay at Mesa Verde as an Artist-in-Residence, Haley was afforded the opportunity to explore many sites, dwellings, and landscapes while creating music. Anyone who has visited this magnificent park is forever changed by the experience of visiting the cliff dwellings and imagining the lives of the ancestral Pueblo people who lived there. The CD includes a 15-page booklet with gorgeous photos taken by Jill Haley to illustrate each of the 14 tracks. The music is exceptionally beautiful and features Haley’s family on some of the accompanying instruments. Haley performs on piano, guitar, bass, oboe and English horn (recorded by Tom Eaton at Imaginary Road Studio); Haley’s husband, David Cullen appears on guitar and bass; and her children, Dana, Graham, and Risa Cullen appear on horn, cello and viola respectively. It’s an impressive project that invites the listener to experience the sights and sounds of Mesa Verde by way of masterful musical expression.
Mesa Verde Soundscapes opens with the graceful and very serene “Chapin Daybreak,” a piano and oboe duet inspired by a sunrise viewed from the Chapin Amphitheater. As the light becomes more intense, the piece expands to include the songs of various birds and insects - a lovely beginning! “Curves of Burnt Orange” depicts the color of a sunset on the walls of Mug House, one of the cliff dwellings. Piano and English horn evoke images of lengthening shadows and a peaceful calm. “Seep Spring Song” has a very light, flowing feeling, representing the life-giving water near or in many of the dwellings. “Towers and Kivas” is a spirited trio for guitar, bass and oboe that tells of the space-saving methods of building vertically within the cliff dwellings - towers that rise in the cliffs and kivas that were created in sunken areas of the dwellings. The acoustic nature of this rhythmic piece is both contemporary and traditional. “Sleeping Ute Mountain” is quietly soothing yet haunting in its beauty. The pastoral “Vibrant Mesa Blossoms” describes the plants and flowers that have graced the area for centuries. If you’ve ever visited the cliff dwellings, you have experienced the feeling that the spirits of the ancestral Pueblo people live on in those spaces. “Living Walls” expresses that feeling via a wonderful piano and English horn duet. “Far View,” a very cinematic piece for horn, oboe and piano, is named for the largest building in the community and its expansive views. The music suggests vast open space and feelings of quiet contentment. The last Soundscape is an evocative piano solo called “Mesa Nightfall.” It expresses the magical time when the many of the colors of the sunset merge and blend to become the peaceful night sky.
Jill Haley is creating a wonderful series of albums inspired by the beauty and majesty of some of our National Parks - what an amazing tribute! Mesa Verde Soundscapes is available online from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
September 11, 2014