I grew up in the watershed of the great Merrimack River, which flows from the confluence of the Winnipesaukee and Pemigewasset Rivers in New Hampshire, 117 miles to the sea at Newburyport, Massachusetts. When I saw Damian Mark Ryan’s series of photographs taken during walks along the railroad tracks and river paths of the Merrimack River mill city Haverhill, Massachusetts, I felt an instant resonance with my own journey; a powerful evocation of the layers of past, present, and possibility that vibrated with memories of the power of place. I knew within moments that I wanted to compose music to accompany these images.
Damian Mark Ryan was a good friend during my high school years. We spent much time in conversation-- often walking alongside the Pemigewassett, just a few miles from where it became part of the Merrimack at Franklin Falls. We talked about literature, art, film, music, and, sometimes, our feelings about the New England landscape. Before long, our conversations led to collaborations on student film projects. Damian and I “met" again recently via social media, and it has been a nice surprise to renew a creative collaboration 40 years later.
The texture of the music-- performed on electric baritone guitar with delays-- was suggested by the idea--and images-- of a lone pilgrimage through an urban New England landscape full of memories that are strong yet perhaps just out of reach. The intervallic, rhythmic, and harmonic structures are based on factors and addends of the number 12, again rooted in the the idea of pilgrimage and deep contemplation. Indeed, one possible translation of the Abenaki place name Merrimack is “ at the deep place .” -KMB