Joe Harchanko is seated, holding his cello. His bow hits the strings and he begins a soothing Irish folk tune, Si Bheag Si Mhor. As he plays, a waterfall falls behind him and, to his right, a stream rushes down the rocks.
Si Bheag’s video Si Mhor is one of 12 pieces that currently make up Harchanko’s âOregon Outdoors Music Projectâ. Each piece is a song played by Harchanko and associated with visuals from the outside.
Harchanko, a professional musician from Salem, embarked on this project in the spring of 2020. After his live performances were canceled and he got stuck at home, he looked for a way to stay creative. and continue to occur during the pandemic.
He found this in the Oregon Outdoor Music Project.
âWhen our usual creative outlets closed it was a replacement for live performances, but it went from there to become their own thing,â Harchanko said.
This project was also a way for Harchanko to combine two of his favorite things: nature and music.
âWhen I play music, I often feel like hiking. When I’m hiking or camping, that’s when I have ideas and want to go back to the studio to create them, âHarchanko said. âThis project is a great way to bring these two worlds together. “
Within the Oregon Outdoors Music Project, the theme of nature remains consistent, but the music varies, including original compositions, traditional folk songs, and electronic renditions.
Last winter, Harchanko created a piece for the project inspired by snow. Together with a colleague, they recorded a song that Harchanko took to the editing studio and âreinvented music entirely in an electronic settingâ. Bleak, as the play is called, is accompanied by snow scenes from the Cascades and the Willamette Valley.
âIt started with the cello, but it ended up in a kind of electronic realm. And, really, for this track the music and the video came together at the same time, âHarchanko said.
Several other pieces in the project feature Harchanko performing Bach’s compositions outdoors. On six videos, Harchanko plays Bach’s First Suite in various spring locations, among lavender and cherry blossom.
âEach of Bach’s Suites always reminds me of a particular time of year. The first sequel for me is a spring sequel, âHarchanko said.
Another piece arose recently when Harchanko was scrolling through his phone and came across an iPhoto-created video of a family trip to the Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge. Inspired, he sat down and created an original composition based on the images, which he published with the photos under the title âImages of Life I. Basket Sloughâ.
This project allowed him to explore the space both musically and visually. As a composer, Harchanko says people always do the visual component for him, whether it’s movies, concerts, or whatever. But this project forced him to take on the role of visual creation and he found inspiration in his own outdoor photos.
Going forward, Harchanko plans to continue adding parts to this project, even as the in-person performances return.
âI keep thinking about what it means to be a composer and a cellist. I think it’s unrealistic to just focus on live performances and I love this medium as a creative outlet, âsaid Harchanko.
To see and listen to more of Oregon’s outdoor music projects, visit Cellotopia on YouTube.
Eddy Binford-Ross is an outdoor intern at the Statesman Journal. Contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @eddybinfordross.