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From Montana to the Sea: hidden waters of the northwest

Explore the rivers, quiet streams, the waterfalls: those hidden places that refresh and renew. Journey from the plains and mountains of Montana to remote ocean beaches. Composers and multi-instrumentalists Matthew Lyon and Christine Dickinson offer a gentle and flowing tribute to the waters of their home in the Pacific Northwest. Piano, cedar and bamboo flutes, cello, guitar, voices, and keyboards are joined by actual location recordings of waters from Montana and the Pacific coastal wilderness.


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1. Headwaters 8:43 Piano – Christine; cello - Janet; keyboards – Matthew

Every river has its own, simple origin: after the long winter a small rivulet, one of many from the high, pristine snow fields, finds its way down through a maze of many stones. The small stream finds another tiny brook, and mist rises as the rushing waters join together, on their way to the river.

2. Deep Creek (A song without words) 4:03 Piano & keyboards – Matthew & Christine Vocals – Ian Lyon & Christine

If you listen closely, while sitting by a stream or river, you might hear the stones singing with many voices. Together the water and stones in the streambed produce audible harmonies like those of a choir. This piece is a small portrait of a day in the sun, in a perfect place, on a summer’s afternoon. (Our son, Ian, sang his debut recording on this piece. We wanted to capture it before his voice changed.)

3. Holland Lake 3:35 Guitar, keyboards, low & high tin whistles - Matthew

We camped here on a lovely weekend, with friends in September, when the leaves were just beginning to change colors. At night we shared firelight and music, and the next day our boys had their first kayak trip together with our friend Rolly. Watching the three of them from the shore they seemed to paddle effortlessly across the smooth surface of the lake.

4. Hidden Waters 4:44 End-blown flute & keyboards – Matthew; sound water samples of Kohl Creek, tributary of the Jocko River

We all should have a secret place, a narrow canyon where the sun shines only part of the day; where the water pools around a favorite, moss-covered rock. Over time it becomes ‘ours’; a place where one can sit –simply to watch or listen.

5. Heart of the River 3:54 Piano, bodhran - Christine; cedar flute, keyboard - Matthew; Vocals - Ian Lyon

Over the years we have become familiar with many rivers—the Flathead, and upper Missouri especially. This last summer introduced us to several more in the Upper Peninsula, and to the Hoh in the Olympic Rainforest of Washington State. What has become most apparent is how different they all are; from the red waters that flow into Lake Superior, to the blue green of the Flathead River—the memory of a motionless heron fishing in the shallow current.

6. Willow’s Dream 3:59 Guitar, piano, keyboard – Matthew; cello – Janet

The poet Neruda wrote: “we are together from our clothes down to our roots: together in the autumn, in water…”; so are the willow and the stream.

7. The Yellowstone 3:41 Piano – Christine; cedar flute, keyboards Matthew

Christine’s mother and her mother grew up near the Yellowstone River on the Rosebud in Montana. Driving east last summer we stopped by the old homestead towards evening and marveled at the long, multi-colored sunset, which lingered on the plains for hours, it seemed. The long grasses still blow in the wind and the prairie looks much the same as when Mom used to ride her horse across the fields.

8. Garden Wall 3:07 Piano – Christine; cello – Janet

The Mission Mountains greet us each morning as we open the blinds on our kitchen window. Every day they wear new clothes. The Wall sits back between two towering peaks, and as I write this it is dressed in the blue-white of deep winter snow and the setting sun.

9. The Curlew 2:54 Piano - Christine, pennywhistle – Matthew

The long billed curlew has a most distinctive call. In Montana one can most easily see these birds in the early springtime nesting on the upland prairie. Their nests are crude, lined with weeds or grass, the eggs being heavily spotted with tinges of lavender; assuming the appearance of stones.

10. Wetlands 4:00 Bamboo flutes, keyboards, sound design – Matthew

The birds, stream, and ambient sounds you hear on this piece were recorded near Cascade, Montana in the Chestnut Valley, which is not far from the banks of the Missouri River. The recording was made with a stereo microphone and a portable DAT recorder.

11. Westward to the Sea 4:26 Keyboards – Matthew; vocals – Christine

To live in western Montana is to be part of the beginning of the ocean; the water that falls on the slopes near our home join the dozens of brooks and streams which merge with the mighty Columbia on its journey to the Pacific. Like the streams, we are drawn to the sea in an endless dance of sun, rain, and time.

12. Rialto Beach 4:30 Piano – Christine (Surf recorded at Rialto Beach June 1999)

One of the northern beaches in Olympic National Park – Rialto is part of a generous reach of the Pacific coastline, which has been put aside as wilderness. From the many, meandering streams flowing into the Pacific, to the untouched rainforest only a few feet from the wild ocean beaches, everything is left as it was. We talk about Rialto often. We spent many days here off and on during the summer, and in August we had a small family reunion. We brought home many small shells, multi-colored stones, as well as vibrant images of “Hole in the Wall”, memories of hours spent exploring the tidal pools, or sitting around driftwood fires. This landscape is timeless.

13. World’s Edge 6:47 Cedar flute & keyboard - Matthew; cello - Janet

The Celts had a phrase for places where the barrier between this world and that of the sacred is nearly transparent. These “thin places” it is described, can often be experienced as a lucid moment, one of calm and integration - an awareness or understanding that the eternal does exist, and that it can be felt and experienced, if not seen with the eyes.

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