John B Hedges

composer & musician

Fear of Drowning in Land (2009) for reed trio

for oboe, clarinet/bass clarinet & bassoon

Duration: 9'

Program Notes:

Fear of Drowning in Land is a fantasy/nightmare of sorts shared by many East and West coast Americans. There is a common fear or prejudice against living in ‘the country’. A fear of open spaces, of being disconnected, left out, or more accurately, of missing out on something. I have noticed it most in northeasterners, particularly New Yorkers. Maybe it’s the cities or our need to cling to the coast like a bannister but the phobia of moving inland brings with it a vertigo as if the farther in you move the farther you will fall. But as with most things we are afraid of, we are also fascinated by them. Quiet. Solitude. Open country.


The year I composed this work, I had just relocated to a fairly rural area of upstate New York from where I had been living in Philadelphia. Though I had hardly moved far from the bustling urban centers of the Northeast corridor I still felt the same old fear of cutting myself off from where things were ‘happening’. I was living in a bucolic location, the kind of place I had dreamed of living and yet still was nagged by the same worries of drowning there. I wrestled with my prejudice for some time until I finally let go of it and have since never once regretted having moved.


This piece expresses my experience of those fears and prejudices in a nightmarish form. It begins with images of open spaces that grow increasingly unsettling until they are taken over by the noisy energy of the city, with low winds barking like dogs or car horns under a snobby melodic lines. At some point the open spaces being to assert themselves into the urban landscape until urban themes begin to be submerged in them. In the final sections of the work, the bassoon sputters and gasps to stay afloat but is left to sink below the surface, at which point a peace begins to be made between the two ideas. The fear is given up and the open spaces are embraced.


This work was commissioned by the Vientos Trio and premiered by them in Los Angeles, CA in May, 2009.