Castle Canyon Soundwalk

Castle Canyon Soundwalk

Fuzzy & Reverberant

Castle Canyon is in The Mount Hood National Forest, a stone’s throw from the little hamlet of Rhododendron. It isn’t a what I’d call a canyon. It’s a wooded ridge with some striking volcanic rock formations rising out of it. Two steep creek canyons do cut troughs in the landscape on either side of this ridge, so it’s not devoid of canyons, but the “castle” bits don’t mix with the canyon bits in an obvious way. The short trail that leads up to these rock pinnacles is quite steep, utilizing just a few switchbacks to climb 800 feet in less than 3/4 of a mile.

The soundscape here is unique. I’d call it airy, reverberant and fuzzy. The sound of the distant tumbling creeks bounces up through the Douglas-fir and hemlock woods, mixing with the breeze playing off the leaves of alders and big-leaf maples, forming a bio-acoustic hum. Its frequency changes subtly as I climb the trail.

This is not a soundwalk I would recommend listening to in the car. Its features are nuanced and easily lost in a din. I mixed the soundscape more in the foreground than in the past, embracing all that fuzzy creek sound. It’s probably best experienced in headphones or a quiet environment.

I’ve also been utilizing more of the stereo sound stage lately: placing instruments in the mix solidly in the left or right channels. After all, this is how the birdsong registers. When you listen with headphones and close your eyes you can often picture the birds in imagined space.

Pacific Wrens can be heard singing and calling at different points, along with Golden-crowned Kinglets and Dark-eyed Junco. A distant Pilieated Woodpecker’s laugh is heard and in the opening minutes, and midway through a raven honks and vocalizes in “subsong” (birdsong that is softer and less well defined than the usual territorial song, sometimes heard only at close quarters).

Castle Canyon, Mount Hood National Forest

My score is melodic, as always, but always rising through the scale, playing off the rising pitch and evolving timbre of the creek sounds on the climb. For the instrumentation I challenged myself to leave piano out this time. With small songbirds so prominent in the soundscape, I tend to gravitate to “smaller” sounding instrument voices: glockenspiel, circle bells, flute, wispy synths. A clarinet plays out a theme at several points. One interesting addition to the instrumentation is Joshua Meltzer’s “Panjo”, a clever virtual instrument hybrid playing either baritone banjo or pan drum sounds for each note from the phrases I play on the keys. Never the same twice. It sounds like a dreamy, twangy music box.

Just over a week ago I finished submitting the next dozen soundwalks to come after this one, cementing the biweekly release schedule up to December! So, I know well what is in the future for Soundwalk and I don’t think it spoils any surprises to say they more or less follow the trajectory set by Castle Canyon Soundwalk. What I don’t quite know is what I will create over the summer and fall, having freed up my schedule, but I’m hoping to experiment, take some risks, and branch out!

In that spirit, I’ll leave you with this short video of the trail to the pinnacles viewpoint at Castle Canyon. Thanks for being here. I hope you enjoy Castle Canyon Soundwalk. It will be available on all streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple, Tidal, Amazon, YouTube…) tomorrow May 17.

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Soundwalk combines roving field recordings with an original musical score. Each episode introduces you to a sound-rich environment, and embarks on an immersive listening journey. It's a mindful, wordless, renewing retreat.
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Appears in episode
Chad Crouch