Jay and I were listening to some tape from Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister, who had traveled to the Great Plains to talk to buffalo farmers and cattle ranchers and we were listening to Sam Hurst talk - and suddenly, Bill Frisell just came to mind. His music, which can capture big and open spaces in an indescribable way, seemed like it would fit with the stories that were coming in and the tape that producers were gathering.
On a whim, we called up his management company. We explained the project, and they were intrigued. In a matter of months, I found myself in a recording studio in Seattle with Bill Frisell and a trio of string instrumentalists - Hank Roberts on cello; Jenny Scheinman on violin and Eyvind Kang on viola.
I spent two days in the studio with them and came back with 106 different pieces of music - from string quartet arrangements to solo electric guitar. We had no idea what we would get in Seattle. The music wasn't what we expected, but the music has made the series come alive and sound different in ways that we never ever planned.
We feel incredibly lucky that we were able to steal a little of Bill Frisell's time - as well as that of the musicians he brought together.
Here is a taste of some of the music made in Seattle. This is called "ST5 Rubato Viola Melody."
Toward the end of the recording session we tried an experiment: we played some tape, gathered in the field for the series, into the musician's headphones and asked them to respond to the voices they heard.
Take a listen...
Here's writer Charles Bowden talking to producer Jeff Rice...
Here's writer Charles Bowden as interpreted by Hank Roberts on cello...
Personnel behind the Bill Frisell music on Stories from the Heart of the Land:
Bill Frisell, composer and guitar
Hank Roberts, cello
Jenny Scheinman, violin
Eyvind Kang, viola
Lee Townsend, producer
Shawn Pierce, engineer
Phyllis Oyama, production support