Andrea Clearfield links Taos to Tibet

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Dr. Andrea Clearfield trekked to the highest kingdom in the world, the region of Lo Monthang in Upper Mustang, Nepal, and she let the indigenous Tibetan music she set up to study and document, infuse her life and work.

An award-winning composer, Clearfield has been awarded residencies at Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony as well as at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center and Civitella, Italy, among many others. The New York Times has praised her “graceful tracery and lively, rhythmically vital writing” and her orchestral and choral works have been performed around the world.

She was also awarded an American Academy in Rome William Penn Affiliated Fellowship from the American Composers Forum in 2010.

On Sunday (Aug. 30) at 7 p.m., Clearfield will give a talk about her ethnomusicological fieldwork and share stories of the travels and the people she met, discussing how this rich yet endangered culture has influenced her life and music. The event will take place at Enchanted Mountain Performance Space, 114 Los Pandos Road, in Taos. The space is large enough to seat 60 people. Admission is free.

The composer is no stranger to Taos, where she has also been a Wurlitzer Foundation resident twice, in 2007 and 2013. She is now returning to share her experience in the remote Himalayan village of Lo Monthang, where she was inspired to compose the cantata “Tse Go La” (At the Threshold of This Life) which incorporates the Tibetan melodies that she researched in northern Nepal.

“In the summer of 2008 and 2010 I traveled to the Himalayan region of Lo Monthang to research and record the indigenous Tibetan music,” she said. “The royal court singer was getting old and had no heirs to learn these songs, that had been passed down for generations. They were in danger of being lost forever.”

Thanks to a grant from The Rubin Foundation, Clearfield recorded over a hundred songs that had been undocumented until then. She worked with anthropologist Katey Blumenthal and their research is now part of The University of Cambridge World Oral Literature Project, dedicated to the preservation of dying cultures.

“This journey has touched me deeply, particularly because of the relationship with the people there,” Clearfield said. “The royal court singer told me, ‘This is the place where your world and my world meet.’ It is a different culture, a different way of life, but it showed me how we all can communicate through music, through pure love and vibration. This has been one of the most important and more meaningful interactions in my personal and artistic life.”

“Tse Go La” was co-commissioned by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Girl Choir to bring some of these songs for the first time to the United States. It was composed in 2012 and scored for double-chorus, chamber orchestra and electronics.

During the multimedia presentation she will perform examples of her Tibetan-influenced compositions accompanied by Nancy Laupheimer on flute, and Heidi Svoboda on gongs. “I also host salons in Philadelphia,” Clearfield said, “and have been doing it for 29 years with the idea of integrating different music genres as well as other arts. I was delighted with the opportunity to be part of one here.”

William Osborne and Abbie Conant, distinguished classical musicians, live in Taos during the summers and open their salons to the entire community. “Abbie and I travel very often, so we can’t live here permanently,” Osborne said. “But when we come back, we try to immerse ourselves in Taos life and to do as much for the community as we can. Our hearts belong to New Mexico, where we both are from.”

Wine and refreshments will be served. For more information, call Osborne at (575) 613-5623. For more on Clearfield, visit andreaclearfield.com.

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