Thursday, May 12, 2016

Episode 316 (5-16-16): Capturing Power from Water and Other Sources in Music for the Cello

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:52)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, photos, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 5-12-16.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of May 16, 2016.

SOUND – ~4 sec

That’s the sound of water flowing over the Claytor Lake hydroelectric dam in Pulaski County, Va. What, do you imagine, might a musical interpretation of hydroelectric power sound like? Have a listen for about 35 seconds to how one composer has imagined that, performed here by a Virginia high school senior.

MUSIC - ~ 34 sec

You’ve been listening to part of Movement II of Erik Friedlander’s American Power suite for solo cello, performed by Henry Skutt of Blacksburg on May 1, 2016. Mr. Friedlander’s composition, written and first performed in 2011, includes six movements about different aspects of power and energy sources in the United States. Movement II was inspired by water power, while the other movements relate to electricity, solar power, oil, nuclear power, and the decisions people make in light of the benefits and costs of power sources. Mr. Friedlander composed American Power in response to a photography collection of the same name, published in 2009 by Mitch Epstein, who aimed to examine visually how energy in the United States is produced, is used, and influences people’s lives. In his musical response to those photographs, Mr. Friedlander has said he was “led to the source—the power itself: electrical power, hydraulic, solar, and nuclear power—the pace, the heat, [and] the flow,” as he imagined it. The result, he said, was “technically challenging music, [with] fast [timing] and tricky hand positions.” Challenging, fast-moving, tricky – those words describe not only the music of the American Power suite, but equally the complicated connections among power, people, and the planet.

Thanks to Henry Skutt for providing this week’s music, and we close with another short excerpt of the water movement from Erik Friedlander’s American Power.

MUSIC - ~ 15 sec

For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463. Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show. In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The excerpt of Erik Friedlander’s American Power/Movement II heard in this episode was performed by Henry Skutt on May 1, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. Thanks to Henry Skutt and Glenn Skutt for making the audio of that performance available for use in this episode.

A performance by Erik Friedlander of American Power/Movement II is available online at his Web site, at (4 min./00 sec.). More information about Mr. Friedlander is available online


Side view of the Claytor Lake hydroelectric dam, Pulaski County, Virginia, July 13, 2013.

Turbine at Smith Mountain Lake Hydroelectric Facility, Pittsylvania/Bedford County border, Virginia. Photo courtesy of Appalachian Power Company, provided July 26, 2013.

Some of the images in Mitch Epstein’s American Power photo collection can be viewed online at


The “American Power” album was released January 23, 2012, Produced by Mitch Epstein & Erik Friedlander. The movement titles, according to Friedlander on this site, are as follows:

I. With speed [electricity];
II. Flowing, grand [water];
III. Freely, with forward motion [solar];
IV. Steady, solemn [crude];
V. Lurching, unstable [fission];
VI. elegy [decision].

Source: Erik Friedlander, “American Power,” online at


Used in Audio

Philip Bither (curator for performing arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn.), December 2013 interview with Erik Friedlander and Mitch Epstein about American Power, available online at (1 hour/2 min/54 sec).

Lydia Broshnahan, “The Music of American Power: A Conversation with Erik Friedlander,” Oct. 30, 2013, “The Green Room” blog of the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, Minn.), online at

Mitch Epstein, “American Power,” online at

Erik Friedlander, “American Power,” online at [Quotations in the audio from Mr. Friedlander were taken from this source.]

New Music USA, “American Power: Mitch Epstein & Erik Friedlander Commission/World Premiere,” Feb. 23, 2013, online at

Paul Schmelzer, “Visualizing American Power: Mitch Epstein and Paul Shambroom in Conversation,” Oct. 16, 2013, Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, Minn.), online at

For More Information about Hydropower and Other Sources of Energy and Electrical Power

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), “Hydropower,” online at

U.S. Energy Information Administration, online at [Power sources listed include (in alphabetical order) coal, natural gas, petroleum and other liquids, nuclear/uranium, renewables/alternative fuels.]

U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Virginia State Profile and Energy Estimates” (as of June 18, 2015), online at

Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, “Virginia Energy Patterns and Trends,” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (

A previous episode on hydropower is Episode 170 (7-15-13).

For other previous episodes on connections between water and energy, please see the “Energy” category at the Index link above.


This episode may help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Grades K-6 Force, Motion, and Energy Theme
6.2 – energy sources, transformations, and uses.

Life Science Course
LS.11 - relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Physical Science Course
PS.6 – energy forms, transfer, and transformations.

Earth Science Course
ES.6 – renewable vs. non-renewable resources (including energy resources).

Physics Course
PH.7 – energy transfer, transformations, and capacity to do work.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2008 Social Studies SOLs:

World Geography Course
WG.2 - how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.7 - types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

The episode may also help with the Virginia 2013 Music SOL at various grade levels that calls for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at