To kick in the spring season, members of the T&E Collective discuss their favorite songs that celebrate nature. These songs encompass the beauty of the natural world, from the sky and mountains down to the soil and roots below 'em.
Artist: The Botanist
Album: IV: Flora
The world would be better off without us. This basic premise informs much of The Botanist’s work. Their work sees release often on The Flenser, a Bay Area Label who have put out great artists such as Bosse-de-Nage, Deafheaven, Panopticon, Palace of Worms and Have a Nice Life. If you are looking for some variety to your black metal (and who isn’t) this is some strange, misanthropic forest worship. As extreme as the view, and the music, sounds, the earth would be a more healthy place without homo sapiens, and knowing this can help us reflect on our place in this world and the repercussions of the actions we take every day.
Album: Mycorrhizae Realms
Fursaxa is a weirdo freak-folk loop witch, Grouper with an autoharp and bells. Mycorrhizae, mentioned in the album title, are the networks of mycelia that grow in the roots of plants, aiding both the plants and the fungi. This music lingers and lurks and spreads itself in your roots and the name is fitting. Not as splendid as the forest of Grouper or Pelt, but not as microscopic as the field recordings of Loren Chasse, Fursaxa stretches pieces out that act as a living backbone to the plants all around without you even noticing.
Artist: Thomas Köner
There is no better invocation of coldness than Thomas Köner’s music. A German producer active for over 20 years now, Köner’s work is not a cheery chill, or the quiet cabin-fever of Bon Iver, it is a bone-deep, enveloping cold wind, the icy underwater of a glacier flattening a continental shelf -- you will die out here if you stay too long. The harshness of the unforgiving north is so well captured without particularly harsh tones. Köner is a master of dark ambient and a true cold miser. Bundle up.
Song: “Going to California”
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Album: Led Zeppelin IV
I’m a frequent visitor to the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Lake Tahoe area. During winter, especially, I’m known to start heading out from the Bay Area as early as 4:30 a.m., which means I usually get to the mountains right around sunrise. Led Zeppelin - especially their mellower, folkier stuff - is always a solid choice when you’re in the mountains, and this song always makes me think of a particular stretch of Interstate 80 where the sun peeks out from behind the mountains at dawn and bathes the valley below in golden sunlight. It's a relaxing way to start your day that gets you in a good mood to truly appreciate being out in nature for the day. I’ve been all over this state throughout my life, and while I associate “Going to California” with this particular stretch of highway in the mountains, it’s also good for a hike along the serene, uncrowded central California coast, or in the even-more sparse and underratedly gorgeous Eastern Sierras.
Artist: David Bowie
Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Shortly after David Bowie died last year, I went snowboarding at one of my favorite ski resorts. It was late January, and the Sierra Nevada was buried in snow. Bowie’s loss still on my mind, I compiled a playlist of my favorite songs from his extensive career to listen to while I was on the slopes. “Starman” came on while I was making my way down one of my favorite runs. It was a clear, sunny day. You could see snow-covered mountains and trees for miles. This was a sharp contrast from around this same time the year before, where I learned how to snowboard on six inches of compacted slush during a particularly bad year of California’s crippling drought. Compared to that, last year's season felt like a miracle, and that day felt perfect. In that moment, while I was flying down the mountain against such a majestic backdrop, Bowie’s classic song about a cosmic savior made me feel like a visitor on another planet. It made me feel lucky to be there that day. I left the slopes that evening with a renewed appreciation for nature and a renewed sense that in my life, I’m only a guest to something larger than me.
Song: “Whiskey River”
Artist: Willie Nelson
Album: Willie and Family Live
This is another song I like to listen to when I go snowboarding. It’s an odd pick, for sure, but it gets you feeling nice and loose and gets you in a good mood, which is an essential mindset to have on the mountain. In particular, it’s great for riding on those warm spring days towards the end of the season when you can feel summer starting to creep around the corner. At this point, the snow has started to melt and isn’t the best, but there’s something nice about days in the high 40s to mid 50s where you can hit the slopes wearing a light sweater or even just a sports jersey. (For those of you who’ve never gone skiing or snowboarding - if this sounds cold to you, you burn A LOT of calories on the mountain. It warms your body up like crazy. Days with temperatures in this range can have you feeling like you’re in San Diego by midday even if you’re only wearing a base layer.) Of course, it's also a good song for being out in nature in general once it gets warmer -whether there's snow on the ground or not. If you’re one of those people who likes to go camping and just kick back, relax, have a few drinks, and enjoy the scenery (especially if you’re by a lake or river), this is your song. Willie has recorded two well-known versions to this song, and I prefer this live version because it has a Grateful Dead vibe that makes it much more fun than the sorrowful studio version found on his 1973 album Shotgun Willie. Word on the street this year is that some ski resorts in California are planning to stay open well into the summer due to an exceptionally good snow record this winter. If that ends up being true, I look forward to cruising down the mountain in a tank top, board shorts, and with this song playing in my headphones.
Song: “Concerto for Violin and Strings in E, Op.8, No.1, RV.269 "La Primavera" - 1. Allegro”
Artist: Christopher Hogwood & the Academy of Ancient Music
Album: Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
I’ve picked a few classical pieces here and there for various collab posts, but the theme this month simply demands it. Integral to the human experience, the passing of the seasons has served as a recurring theme across all art forms on every continent throughout human history. So it should be no surprise that we have masterpieces from every century celebrating the arrival of spring. My first pick is the most obvious. It’s the first in a set of four violin concertos by Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, and you’ll instantly recognize it either from commercials or some movie scene trying to feign upper class fancies. In any case, it’s clear why this music has survived in the popular consciousness for nearly 300 years.
Song: “Symphony No.6 in F major Op.68, 'Pastoral' : I Allegro, ma non troppo”
Artist: Nikolaus Harnoncourt & the Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Album: Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 1-9
In a chilly theater in Vienna, 38-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven held a four-hour concert for the aristocracy, premiering two symphonies: one was Symphony No. 5, the one you hear when you think “Beethoven” (the one that goes duh-duh-duh-DUMMMM). The other was Symphony No. 6, also known as the Pastoral Symphony. Characteristic of Beethoven, the piece skipped some Classical era conventions. For one, the symphony featured five movements instead of the usual four. And instead of using dry names to denote each movement’s tempo (“Allegro” for brisk or “Andante” for moderately slow), they donned descriptive names like "Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside” and “Scene by the brook.” The man wanted to paint a picture. From beginning to end—including a fearsome thunderstorm in the fourth movement—the symphony evokes the many tones of spring.
Song: “1. Primo vere - "Ecce gratum”
Artist: Eugen Jochum & the German Opera
Album: Carmina Burana
Though Orff’s epic choral piece premiered in the 1930s, the composer lifted the lyrics from 24 poems in the medieval collection “Carmina Burana.” Written mostly in Latin, the circa 12th century text boasts hundreds of poems ranging from big concepts like fate and death to more playful bits about getting plastered and fucking. In other words, it’s a great reason to smack anyone who thinks the current generation invented indecency; that shit’s older than medieval times. But Orff’s “Carmina Burana” isn’t all about being bawdy. The second major section, “Primo vere,” is composed of three songs all about “the joyous face of spring” and how “all things are tempered by the sun.” In contrast to some of the more irreverent themes that come later, it’s a peaceful, evocative nine minutes that lend the right balance of joy and solemnity to the arrival of the greenest season.
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