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River Keeper 

click to enlarge Annea Lockwood's sound portrait of the Hudson River will be presented at the Brick Elephant September 27.
  • Annea Lockwood's sound portrait of the Hudson River will be presented at the Brick Elephant September 27.

There is much that we take for granted, and more that we’ve forgotten. Neither act of omission is a sin, per se. Still, it’s good, helpful—healthy, even—to be reminded from time to time of what we overlook.
Sure, you half remember the Half Moon, the ship in which Henry Hudson sailed to Albany up the river that bears his name. You may have a sense that, had Hudson had to hike, we might not be here at all. You may even be aware that a replica of that intrepid—if unlucky—explorer’s craft docks seasonally in Albany for the historically minded to poke about in.

Then again, it doesn’t serve drinks like other summertime craft on the river, so maybe it doesn’t ring a bell at all.

In any event, how much time do you spend thinking about the river itself? It’s a safe bet, not as much time as composer Annea Lockwood.

Lockwood has created A Sound Map of the Hudson River, an “aural journey” from the river’s source—the beautifully named Lake Tear of the Clouds, in the high peaks of the Adirondacks—to its terminus in New York harbor. The New Zealand-born composer selected 15 points along the Hudson’s course at which to record the river, choosing them “not to document them, but rather for the special state of mind and body which the sounds of moving water create when one listens intently to the complex mesh of rhythms and pitches.” Additionally, she recorded the stories of four people who work with, or along, the Hudson River, adding a human texture to the weave of the water.

The work will be presented, along with a map illustrating the recording sites, at a venue as commonplace and mysterious as the Hudson itself: The Brick Elephant is a former church in the village of Valley Falls, which proprietor Mary Jane Leach, a well-respected composer in her own right, jokingly calls “the village that time forgot.” Leach has been presenting live and recorded work at the space for three years, and still she finds that people are surprised to find out that there is a there, there.

“We’re only 20 minutes north of Troy,” she says, “but even the local media didn’t know where Valley Falls was.”

She is, as the custodian of the overlooked Elephant, perhaps a partisan of the passed-by, but Leach feels that Lockwood’s work will be rewarding to many. “I’ve tried to schedule things that will appeal to people who don’t ordinarily go to concerts,” she says. “With this, you don’t necessarily have to think, ‘What does this mean?’ If you’re a river buff, or you’re interested in work stories or in environmental art, there’s something here for you.”

Then, moments later, something strikes her and she says with a kind of delight, “Oh, and I hadn’t even thought about the map part.”

Annea Lockwood’s A Sound Map of the Hudson River will be presented at the Brick Elephant in Valley Falls, beginning on September 22 and running through September 27. Admission is by donation. (518) 753-0244;

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