A brief history of the Four Mountains project.
Early in the year 2001 I started exploring the sounds of whales. The first whale songs I considered were the songs of Blue whales, among the loudest and lowest frequency sounds made in Nature. A classic, and very hard to find collection of recordings of these magnificent animals is "Hot Tracks and Greatest Hits '93", a compilation of the best of the recordings of whale songs made using US Navy SOSUS hydrophones in the early 1990's. At the time this was a ground-breaking experiment in the use of Cold War submarine-tracking technology to help marine biologists in their studies of pelagic cetaceans.

While exploring the third soundtrack of that album I noticed a very peculiar pattern, a pattern I came to call 'the Mountain'. Over the years I played with this clip, the left and right channels, different sample rates and scales. When it had grown to about 10 minutes I shared the movie with a friend in Germany. His reaction was "my copy is broken- there's no sound!". Well, it was not broken, but the soundtrack used to make the movie, is, in fact, inaudible. So this presented a problem.

Several years later, in the spring of 2005, I met a Boston-area composer. I asked her if she would consider working on 'the Mountain'. She agreed.

Subsequently the original inaudible soundtrack has been replaced in this last revision with a beautiful composition by Lauri des Marais. The original colors have been replaced with the colors of her music. Therefore, what started as a small clip of sound has grown into a 24 minute movie. But, what was once 'the Mountain' now had a soundtrack with four movements. Lauri comments:

"While viewing this 'Four Mountains' DVD pay special attention to the color variations that follow the sound. The color is directly related to the frequency of the sound using conventional mapping. The music is ... comprised of two pieces 'Paint' and 'Day 5: Wind' (Day 5 is taken from a series)."

So, while musing over what to call this collaboration, I recalled seeing an old Hopi medicine wheel in 'the Book of Hopi'. It occurred to me that if one cut the quarters and unrolled this wheel, you would have 'Four Mountains', which seemed wonderfully appropriate.

Several weeks after the change in title, now December 2005, I happened across a book describing a kayaking adventure in the Aleutians. In this book it describes the location of the adventure as being the mythical home of the Aleut people, the 'Islands of the Four Mountains'. And, so, there you have it. What started as a prelude to the song of a whale is related, through a rather circuitous route, to a Hopi medicine wheel and origin stories of the Aleutian people. I hope you enjoy this meditation on music, technology, nature and ancestry...

But wait-- it gets stranger. It turns out that 'Four Mountains' is part of Navajo lore, also...

And the plot continues... It turns out that a mountain top is in each of the cardinal directions with Machu Picchu at the center. So this is a very old construction in various mythologies.

Four Mountains