A Composition for the Chattanooga Community

Soundtrack for a Walk

Composing the Flora Luna Journey

See Rock City – Spring Nights – Photography by Dan Henry / DanHenryPhotography.com

Rock City is a Chattanooga icon, a landmark that is part of our history and identity. It’s also usually considered by locals to be only a tourist destination. However, Rock City is first and foremost one of the most scenic and profoundly beautiful places in the region. Reminding locals of this, and inviting them back to the property was the instigation for creating a unique, nighttime, dining experience called Flora Luna. Essentially it’s an exploratory, evening hike that is enhanced by sculptural installations, artistic lighting and projections, and sound! When I was asked by the Will & Kim Jackson (designer and storyteller for This project) to compose a new piece of music for this experience, I jumped at it because this is exactly the kind of outside-the-box composition project that I love. I’m primarily a composer who loves to create work for and with a community by spending time digging into what makes a community special.

This past Winter, I began meeting with Will & Kim about the Flora Luna project. We walked the pathways at Rock City and previewed some of installation art pieces that were being fabricated onsite. I got to know about Frieda, the first owner of the property that would become Rock City, and how her love of the property with its secret passageways and stunning overlooks would move her to eventually invite the public to share its magic. I knew right away that since Rock City is known for its whimsical gnomes that give it an almost theme park atmosphere, I wanted to give the Flora Luna experience something different, with more depth of emotion. Sounds that drew heavily from the Classical tradition were requested of me, and so I began to dig in. This almost feels like a cinematic experience, so I drew from sounds of John Williams’ soundtracks and from the Classical composers that seem to inspire his work. I also realized that since Flora Luna would be a Springtime event, emphasizing seasonal nature sounds and moods would be helpful. What evolved was a main theme that sounds a bit like a mix between a sweeping film score and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” that greets you as you enter the Flora Luna experience. 

After several weeks of sketching ideas, the composition was completed in just a couple of short weeks. I then rounded up some of my favorite musicians (Nick Hoy, Emily Drexler, Ben Van Winkle, Gordon James, and Nathan Shew) and headed into the studio for some lovely days of recording. Next I handed the tracks over to my friend and colleague Carl Cadwell for his production skills and mastering. He really is a magician!

This music really is a “Soundtrack for a Walk”, which is what I titled this rambling, 4-movement, 40-minute work. As you begin down the path of Flora Luna, you actually follow a red thread, which is literally what Frieda originally used on her property to mark her favorite trail. The “Red Thread” movement of my piece has a forward propulsion of excitedly following a mysterious new pathway, with a schezo-like quality that hopefully provides a mixture of fun and suspense without falling into silliness. (Not a gnome in sight!) Farther down the path, near the great waterfall, there is a grotto for which I’ve composed deeply contemplative music for taking in the surreal beauty of that moment on the pathway. Altogether, I love this experience, because you explore it at your own pace, going back or pushing forward as you wish, and what makes it special is what you and an explorer bring to it. That’s exactly how I think about my compositions: a vehicle for your own memories, thoughts, and contemplations. Most importantly, I hope that coming out of the Flora Luna experience, and at the end of any performance of my music, the audience is drawn to have conversations about the work and about their own human experiences. If you’d like to experience Flora Luna for yourself, visit the Rock City Website for more information. The experience runs nightly April 5th through May 12th. www.seerockcity.com/floraluna

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