How Artists Draw Inspiration from Nature

For the annual National Take A Hike Day, we are spotlighting some of our artists who are a bit more daring than most. Christina Rusnak, Stephen Lias, and Sidney Balin head to the mountains, or to the sky…to draw creative inspiration. Check out their stories below.

Can you think of anything better than hiking a mountain, sitting at the top, and taking in the beautiful views? Sure, going up is not so fun, but just picture the end result…

Amazing, right? With a view of St Mary’s Lake pictured above, the rest of the world seems to fade away. All the bills that are sitting on the kitchen table are gone. The dirty dishes in the sink are forgotten. That rear-ender from last month that hiked up your insurance is merely a dent. Work. Money. Sickness. Pain. It’s all gone once you reach that peak.

There is a sense of peace in hiking and adventuring that opens up the most creative of portals.  A lot of artists, writers, and creators, venture off into the wilderness to dip their toes into this creative pool in order to seek inspiration. In fact, a few of our PARMA artists are adventure-composers, skydivers, martial artists, and thrill seekers!

Long-time PARMA artist Christina Rusnak has released on all four of our labels, Navona, Ravello, Big Round, and most recently on Ansonica Records with INTERSECTIONS. Rusnak has traveled all around the world on commission for adventure works.

In an article from Landscape Music, Rusnak explains when composing in a location she “[Iimmerses herself] in the landscape, experiencing as much of its diversity as possible… [she researches] its physical geography, geology, flora, and fauna. [she asks herself] questions: What senses are engaged? What is my point of view?”  in order to get the most out of every experience.

Life of Ashes
Life of Ashes, Mountain Path

The culture of a location is also extremely important to Rusnak when choosing commission projects, stating “Its the fusion of the landscape itself with the intersection of our historic place within the landscape that is really interesting to me. In the Life of Ashes, the culture wasn’t human, it was from the point of view of the animals and plants that live on the mountain.” 

She went on to say that “While one may infer that we all begin with the same palette of musical choices, as an artist I bring my unique experiences, values, and perspectives to the work. Thus, the individual landscape, the breadth of its scope, and the specificity of its details actually morph the approach and process I take in composing about one place or another.”

Stephen Lias, another adventure-composer of ours, heard on SPARKS, was featured by the National Parks Conservation Association in the fall of 2011, with his beautifully written article titled “The Movement,” which was about his experience at Rocky Mountain National Park. More recently  Lias was featured on Houston Public Media for an interview that was released on 100th birthday for National Parks.

While hiking through the Rocky Mountain National Park, Lias asked himself “How could I make music speak about this feeling, this scenery, the drive that pushes us to test our boundaries and explore? As I wandered the park, I turned this issue over in my head. I tested the quality of the experience like deliberately tasting a new food. What were its elements? How might those elements become sounds?”

Lias hasn’t always been an adventure-composer, however, in the last couple of years, Lias sought to combine his passion for the wilderness and nature with his career. This shift has brought him all around the United States, exploring the National Parks, like Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Denali, Glacier Bay, Bering Land Bridge, and Gates of the Arctic National Parks.

Stephen Lias

Sidney Bailin is not an adventure-composer but he certainly is an adventurer! Bailin released his solo album 16-2-60-N-5: WORKS FOR ELECTRONICS AND PIANO on Ravello Records in May. Instead of hiking to peaks and sleeping under the moon, Bailin was jumping out of planes and practicing martial arts.

Bailin is a no longer jumping out of planes, however during his career as a bird, he made nearly 1,200 jumps. Most people can’t grasp the idea of jumping once. Not only was he a jumper, but he also studied martial arts. From his essay titled “My Karate Philosophy” he writes, “When I was 16, I saw a karate demonstration by children and teenagers in the Bronx neighborhood where I lived. I wanted to be able to do what they did. What impressed me most was the beauty of it. To this day, it is the beauty of karate that most motivates me.”

Sidney Bailin

In response to PARMA on how his adventurings relate to his work, Bailin explained, “To me, composing, martial arts and skydiving are all spiritual quests, a search for oneness with something larger than myself. In martial arts, one must become one with one’s opponent; in skydiving, with the people, you’re doing formations with. In composing, I am testifying to who I am in this world. They all go together.”

So if you can, go for a walk, look at the stars or practice martial arts to find your inner peace. Take in your surroundings, you never know what inspiration may arise.

Happy National Take A Hike Day!

By Samantha Granville, Social Media Specialist

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