There’s the rosewood scroll, the strings, the bridge, the tailpiece and the bow. It all comes together to form a cello, a vehicle through which a person can create music and harmony.
But for renowned cellist Eugene Friesen, the instrument is also a vehicle for expressing love — in his case, love for nature.
“The music that I make is really inspired by the time I spend alone, outside, especially in the woods here in New England and in the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River,” said Friesen, a composer, conductor, teacher and four-time Grammy Award-winner. “I’ve been with the whales in Baja, California, I’ve been to Siberia and Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world. These experiences are inspirational and transformational.”
Friesen’s experiences outdoors are “a kind of nature mysticism” that directly informs his music-writing process.
“At its best, the music really comes from those experiences,” he said. “It’s not stuff that I make or workshop, it’s stuff that just appears, pretty much fully formed.”
At 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 15, Friesen will present his lecture, “The Beauty We Love,” on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as part of Week Three’s theme for the Interfaith Lecture Series: “Art: A Glimpse into the Divine.”
The importance of nature in creating art is something Friesen champions as being essential for young musicians today.
“It’s become more difficult — I’m not even talking about the pandemic. I’m talking about being able to get out of the city and into nature that’s really pristine,” he said. “When we think about some of the greatest works of art that we revere the most, many of them are either describing nature, or making metaphors from nature.”
According to Friesen, a whole generation of inner-city kids will not understand the “musical language” that nature provides.
And equally important, Friesen said, is the need for orchestral musicians who are classically trained to nourish their creativity.
“And nourish not only our performance abilities, but also our improving abilities,” he said. “I like to say that it’s not what we play, it’s why we play. Those experiences in nature and the values we have from our spiritual lives as well as our families — these are the things that should shape the sounds we make.”
Friesen said his lecture will consist of a musical program made up of his original compositions.
And though the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted Friesen’s busy schedule of touring and performances with the Paul Winter Consort, he said it’s been “incredible” to be stuck at home for these last months.
“I’ve been able to really go deep into my studies, as well as into my own music,” he said. “I wake up every day really enthused about working on the music, because I never really know what’s going to come out.”
This program is made possible by the Lois Raynow Department of Religion Fund.