Palouse Songbook

for flute and piano

Emily Doolittle

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Composer Emily Doolittle
Year of Composition 2019
Duration ca.10'
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Instrumentation Piano, Flute
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-ed1ps1

Notes

I drove through the Palouse once, on my way from Seattle, Washington (where I lived from 2008-2015) to a conference in Moscow, Idaho. As I was seeing the unusual beauty of the rolling hills for the first time, an intense dust storm blew in, blocking visibility almost completely. I pulled over to the side of the road and watched as the light turned a dusty red-gold, and the landscape became alien. After an hour or so, the storm retreated and I was able to continue on my way. I later learned that dust storms such as the one I encountered are primarily the result of unsustainable farming practises, and that the native Palouse prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the US. Not long after this trip, I moved away from the Pacific Northwest, but my curiosity about the Palouse remains.

When Sophia Tegart, professor of flute at Washington State University, in Pullman, Washington, asked me to write this piece for her, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore the soundscape of the Palouse. I found a guide to birds of the Palouse, and listened to recordings the songs of about 150 bird species which are regularly found there! From these recordings, I chose three species whose songs most vividly suggested musical ideas for flute and piano to me. These birds are not necessarily most representative of the Palouse – the American Goldfinch and Long-Eared Owl are widely distributed across North America, while the Snow Bunting is only an occasional Palouse visitor – but if you spend long enough listening, you could expect to hear them all there. I wondered if I should keep the title Palouse Songbook, as this combination of birds could be heard in other habitats as well: but eventually I decided I should, because memories of my visit to the Palouse were so integral to the composition of this piece.