Jared Jacobsen was looking for music for this week’s Tallman Tracker Organ concert when he ran across a couple of musical pieces that all had paysages — French for “landscapes” — printed on them.
“That ended up being the McGuffin I needed to create this program,” said Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “I picked four pieces that paint a picture in sound of a particular moment in time and place.”
At 12:15 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ, Jacobsen will take his audience on a pastoral musical journey in his Tallman Organ concert, “Paysages (‘Landscapes’).”
“Somehow, either through the title of (a piece) or through doing research on what was going on in the composer’s life when he wrote it, it fits the criterion for the concert,” Jacobsen said. “It wasn’t just a piece, it was a piece about a landscape, trying to paint a picture in sound.”
Among these auditory landscapes is German composer Richard Wagner’s “Waldweben,” which means “forest murmurs” or “forest weaving.”
“He was such a great colorist with orchestras,” Jacobsen said. “He loved at certain times, like in music dramas, if there was any traveling music or forest scenes. He was very good at writing this music.”
According to Jacobsen, the Tallman Organ lacks the “soft colors” of the Massey Memorial Organ that are essential to playing “Waldweben” correctly.
“But it has enough of them, if you’re creative, that I think this program will work,” he said. “ ‘Forest Murmurs’ implies gentle accompaniments. Maybe bird sounds and things like that. Maybe owls, and if it’s nighttime, a wolf howling in the distance.”
Jacobsen said the forest noises in “Waldweben” remind him of Chautauqua, because it’s “never quiet.”
“Chautauqua is a giant paysages,” he said. “Late at night, there’s the twin magics of relatively little light pollution above you and beautiful nighttime sounds.”
Another piece in the program is inspired by the Basque landscapes in France, according to Jacobsen.
“A composer named Joseph-Ermend Bonnal wrote a set of pieces on the Basque landscapes, but the one I like best is, ‘Bells in the Morning,’ ” he said. “Depending on the climate (at Chautauqua) and especially if it’s a foggy morning, the bells start ringing down from the bell tower, (and) you can’t really tell where that sound is coming from. They’re just all around you, which is what this piece does, too.”
There’s a musical passage in “Bells in the Morning” that includes a descending line which clearly is meant to evoke ringing bells, according to Jacobsen.
Songs that depict scenes in nature were naturally alluring choices for the program, Jacobsen said.
“A lot of these pieces feel like you’re just strolling around,” he said. “That’s what this concert is all about.”