River Runner (2009)

an imaginative work whose piano part is particularly fluent
— Fanfare Magazine Archive
Lias explores nature landscapes and the excitement of adventure, culminating in the visceral and kinetic third and final movement
— podomatic

This piece is part of my National Park Series.

River Runner is a musical representation of memories, landscapes, and emotions experienced during a kayaking trip through Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park. The three movements, named after landmarks encountered during the journey, each filter the subject matter through a different perceptual lens, thus providing different “angles” on the event. The first movement (“Lajitas”) focuses on eagerness and the mental chatter that anticipation inevitably creates. In an unusual move for me, I chose to write a complete text and set it to music. The second movement (“The Sentinel”) is visual and emotional – portraying both the stark shapes and stratification of the rock formations, as well as the foreboding emotional impact of their size and proximity. The last movement (“Rock Slide”) is entirely visceral and kinetic. I tried to capture the terrifying and exhilarating physical sensation of bumping into boulders, skittering over loose gravel, and being pulled into a dangerous current. My intent was to not be merely representational, but to provide layers of association and meaning in a manner that more closely represents the complexity of our own memories. Hopefully, others will hear echoes of their own river journeys in these notes and once again feel the call of adventure.  The entire work has a duration of around 12 minutes.

This piece is available on the following recordings:

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 10.52.10 AM.png
Trombonist Deb Scott

Trombonist Deb Scott

"River Runner" by Stephen Lias (excerpt) I. Lajitas Deb Scott, trombone Ron Petti, piano