Soundtrack of the Homestead: Dennis Hysom

By , April 21, 2010

When I first wrote about the importance music plays in our homestead life, I thought about whether or not it would be possible to choose one single album that would best complement and express our feelings here. If we had to select one, that album would most likely be Dennis Hysom’s Glacier Bay. Volume II in the Last Great Places on Earth audio series presented by The Nature Company, this hard-to-find disc is almost unavailable. Your local independent book or music store may still be able to find you a copy.

Years ago, when Michelle and I lived in Texas, my parents lived in eastern Washington state. One summer my workplace temporarily shut down, so we traveled to Washington. Mom and Dad were away, visiting our former homes in Alaska, but they told us to make ourselves comfortable in their house, and they’d join us shortly.

In the sun-baked town in which they lived, not so different from Texas, I became incredibly homesick for Alaska, wishing we could join my parents. Among their music, I found a handsomely packaged cassette that caught my eye. I put it on their stereo, and became immediately engulfed in Southeast Alaska! Ambient sound accented and accompanied the beautiful music: whale songs, bird songs, calving glaciers, rain showers, wolf howls and sea lion roars. Listening to the album and devouring the detailed artwork of the box and liner notes felt like going home.

By the time I tracked down the regrettably rare recording, compact discs had become the medium of choice. I managed to get the full packaging, which seems to have disappeared since then. It’s very much worth seeking out, if possible! I forget when I got it, but I think it happened after we returned to Alaska. It’s difficult to remember; this music is so integrally tied to my thoughts and feelings for this region that no other associations have clung to it.

I’d expect this affect to be diminished for anyone who hasn’t lived in or visited Alaska. Growing up hearing so many of the ambient sounds of the recording at pivotal and ordinary moments of my life, it no doubt has a much stronger appeal. Ironically, the music itself has become more important in recent years, as many of the natural sounds—most of the birds, the sea lions, even the wolves on rarer occasions—are natural features of our home. This is partly why I’ve allowed Aly to expand the “season” of the disc from preferred spring and summer play to whenever she pleases, rather than continue restricting it.

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