The marshy topography of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast is dotted with bayous- meandering, slow-moving streams which can suddenly spring to life and transform into raging torrents. This dynamic process was on display over the weekend amid the catastrophic flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. As we keep our friends in Houston in our thoughts, let’s listen to a piece which was inspired by this unique Texas topography.
American composer Tobias Picker (b. 1954) wrote Old and Lost Rivers in 1986. The brief, colorful orchestral tone poem was commissioned by the Houston Symphony to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Texas. Picker describes the inspiration for the piece:
Driving east from Houston along Interstate 10, you will come to a high bridge which crosses many winding bayous. These bayous were left behind by the great wanderings, over time, of the Trinity River across the land. When it rains, the bayous fill with water and begin to flow. At other times — when it is dry — they evaporate and turn green in the sun. The two main bayous are called ‘Old River’ and ‘Lost River’. Where they converge, a sign on the side of the highway reads: ‘OId and Lost Rivers.’
Old and Lost Rivers is a gradually unfolding soundscape full of bright, shimmering colors. There are nostalgic, dreamlike echoes of the music of Aaron Copland. Here is Christoph Eschenbach’s recording with the Houston Symphony: