Soundwalk nears end of run at Spa State Park

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Within weeks, the music in Saratoga Spa State Park will fall silent.

Soundwalk, the nature-inspired musical journey that meanders along the park’s creek and through its forest, will be hushed on June 1. That’s why Chris Shiley, Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s vice president of programming, is urging nature and music lovers to find the time to experience the musical installation before it’s gone.

“It’s beautifully written, beautifully composed,” said Shiley, who helped composer Ellen Reid install her Soundwalk, an experience that allows anyone moving through the park to listen to music that reflects the surrounding nature. “Ellen was very inspired by the park and the setting and the beauty of the area. That’s why we relaunched it last May with a version that covers nearly the entirety of the park. ”

It’s free and easy to access by downloading the Ellen Reid Soundwalk phone app. Then head to Spa State Park’s walking paths such as the Avenue of the Pines, Geyser Loop Road and Picnic Lane. Listeners need only press the app’s start button, plug their phone into a headset (highly recommended for quality) to be plunged into a soundscape where nature – birds chirping, streams rippling and leaves rustling – are layered by the sounds of a trilling flute or a soothing harp.

“A lot of thought went into what sounds need to be reflected in that moment,” Shiley said of Reid’s compositions. “There was a lot of thought on her end for matching the music to where you were in nature.”

Reid calls Soundwalk a self-directed public art installation that allows music to follow parkgoers everywhere at any time for any duration.

“Soundwalk is designed to be with the listener wherever they are,” said Reid who piloted the project with SPAC in 2020. “My hope is that people take the risk and experience the park maybe in a new way they haven’t experienced it before . There’s no one way. ”

She describes her music as “a spectrum of sound” that includes chamber music, synth sounds and jazz “all weaved together seamlessly as you walk.”


Her inspiration for the project, which has since been installed in numerous parks in the US and abroad, grew out of her love for city parks and the realization that music “makes us see things differently.”

“The impetus was public parks and people’s relationship with public parks,” Reid said. “(Spa State Park) is such a beautiful park. I’m just thrilled it can work. ”

Soundwalk is just one of several projects that Reid is involved in that include opera, sound design, film scores and ensemble and choral works. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer is also the co-founder of Luna Lab, a program to elevate female composers who identify as nonbinary and gender nonconforming. She also serves as creative adviser and composer-in-residence to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, all upcoming concerts and projects were either canceled or postponed, giving her the time to dedicate to Soundwalk. But since there was no travel, Shiley became her stand-in in the park, giving Reid remote tours of the landscape with his phone.

“I was her boots on the ground,” Shiley said. “I was walking around the park and had her on FaceTime. I was showing her everything. She did come up right before we launched the project to put on the finishing touches, but all the initial work was done walking on FaceTime. ”

It started out in a limited area in 2020 but expanded four times the walking distance with 10 times the audio to encompass the whole park in 2021. Reid did that, she said, as she was so inspired by the park, one of the state’s most popular.

“Spa State Park is a great location for Soundwalk because it has open fields, tall pine trees and really vast variety of landscape that really works well for Soundwalk,” she said. “I really just enjoyed programming the project because there was so much substance in the park itself. All It’s all been really positive. ”

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