The Sea Ranch Songs

for string quartet and backing tracks

Aleksandra Vrebalov

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for string quartet and backing tracks

Ask about this work
Composer Aleksandra Vrebalov
Year of Composition 2015
Duration ca.64'


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Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-av1tsrs1


The Sea Ranch Songs celebrate the 50th birthday of the Sea Ranch and are dedicated to the spirit, nature, and architecture of the this magical place.

No. 1 Spirit

Spirit I is an homage to the Pomo-Kashia Indians, the first people known to have lived on the land that is today Sea Ranch. I am grateful to Mr. Lorin Smith, the medicine man of the Kashia tribe for welcoming me into the Round House and for sharing his stories and songs with me. In his Traveler’s Song, incorporated here, I hear the welcoming and generous spirit of the Pomo people who love and belong to this land.  Special thanks to State Park interpreter Robin Joy Wellman for introducing me to the Pomo community.

No. 2 Fort Ross

Like in a dreamscape, the bell from Fort Ross and a liturgical chorus from a Russian cathedral in San Francisco take us back two hundred years when early Russian settlers and Pomos lived together, merging their cultures and religions.

No. 3 Gratitude

In the voices of Sea Ranchers I heard a sense of wonder, belonging, magic, and gratitude as they described their relationship to the Sea Ranch. Special thanks to Susan Clark, Tom Cochrane, Rob Elder, Donlyn Lyndon, Fiona O’Neil, Sally and Jer Skibbins, Ellen Thompson, and Alice Wingwall for their inspired insights, and to the Sea Ranch Archives Committee and Rob Elder for access to recorded materials.

No. 4 Numbers

In Numbers, the Sea Ranch is mapped through the longitude and latitude of the natural and built landmarks, the age of pebble conglomerates, and the square footage of hedgerows. Hearing the projected location of the White Barn as it would be millions of years from now made me think of the fiftieth anniversary in that context: a milestone for the community, but just a tiny moment in time for the nature that surrounds us. My creative collaborator on this Song was archeologist Sea Rancher Mike Lane who chose the data and read it himself.

No. 5 Ideas: Condominium One

Ideas is inspired by Condominium One, the signature piece of architecture that made Sea Ranch famous around the world. We hear about its beginnings from Donlyn Lyndon, one of the four architects who created it fifty years ago. Condominium’s beautiful geometry with diagonal lines, square openings, cubes and triangles framing the sky and the ocean, merges sensuality and formal discipline in a most organic way. The music I wrote in homage to it is based on the Fibonacci sequence, lines ascending/descending, akin to an eye following the contours of Condominium One nesting within and extending into the landscape.

No. 6 Creatures

Inspired by the many visible and invisible inhabitants of the Sea Ranch…insects, crawling crabs, seals, birds. If you stand on the bluff long enough for the drama of waves and wind to wear off, you begin noticing the micro dramas — rocks and grasses buzzing with life, sparkling spider webs, mushrooms pushing upwards at the speed almost visible to a human eye, as well as the busy life of the tidepool community.

No. 7, Chapel, Rainbow

The Sea Ranch Chapel is a quiet, intimate place that architecturally looks very different from everything around it. The stained glass windows with their elusive light reflections are like materialised rainbows — another magical yet common Sea Ranch phenomenon. Vocals by Aleksandra Vrebalov.

No. 8, Elements I

Elements I is inspired by the constant, powerful movement of wind and ocean. Glorious light, splashes of the surf, an occasional pelican standing on a rock against the wind — all different manifestations of the life force in its disinterested, unforgiving, raw beauty.

No. 9, Starry Night

A summer evening on a roof deck, millions of flickering stars. It is warm and balmy with occasional light needles zipping across the dark sky. In the far away blackness, sky meets the ocean. Guitar samples by Miroslav Tadic.

No. 10 Ideas: Barn Fugue

The simplicity and buoyancy of the White Barn’s structure, the overlapping geometry of the ceiling with its straightforward, rhythmic polyphony, made me relate it to the form of fugue in music. The effort of a group of Sea Ranchers to gather every Saturday and work on the old, dilapidated building I hear as the layering of individual voices in a disciplined polyphony to create a complex structure. Thank you to Mary Alinder and Dick Soule for sharing their stories, and to all who rebuilt the White Barn so that we can celebrate here today.

No. 11, Spirit II

I worked on the Sea Ranch Songs at the Djerassi Artists Resident Program last spring. One night, with the full moon high in the sky, two coyotes showed up close to my studio. I recorded their powerful cry and took their appearance as a very good omen: they hold a central place in the cosmology of the Pomo people and other Northern California Native American tribes. Piano samples by Aleksandra Vrebalov.

No. 12, Elements II

A cypress tree on the bluff stretches between the sky and the earth, its curvy branches and roots look like dark, solidified extensions of ocean waves.  A silent reminder of existence beyond the human measure of time, it withstands the dramatic, constantly changing elements: sun, rock, wind, sea.

No. 13, Gratitude – Coda

Happy Birthday Sea Ranch! Thank you to Carolyn Andre, Jackie Gardener, Andrea Lunsford, Donlyn Lyndon, Greg Moore, Esther and James Munger, Elizabeth Somers, Dick Soule, and Alice Wingwall for the happy birthday contributions!