Guest Blogger Christina Rusnak: Solo Hikes and “Glacier Blue”

Christina Rusnak

Impacts on our music come from unexpected sources. For me, one of the biggest was a botany / biology professor during my senior year in college. In an attempt to get my science requirements in the fastest way possible, I signed up for a Field Botany/Biology class. Most of it was spent backpacking in Big Bend National Park. The experience was life changing! I arrived hating science and left with an insatiable curiosity about our natural world. I’d never logged more than three miles in a day; we covered about 60 in a week. Fast forward to grad school at the University of North Texas in 2009 where composer Stephen Lias presented his piece River Runner, a piano and trombone piece about kayaking down the Rio Grande River in Big Bend along the United States / Mexico Border.  I knew then that composing about nature and parks would become a major factor of my compositional life.  I’m not exactly alone. Third Angle has produced multiple concerts featuring composers exploring our natural world.

Our environment — the physical landscape — has influenced musical creation for eons. For centuries, people have orchestrated their lives by the chaotic and transitory nature of the sea, the landscape, and its arteries. The environment is not a merely a rigid, static location, but a highly nuanced layering of shifting, transitory elements. Sound is a fundamental element of the Earth’s ecosystem. Like us, sound and music require air. “Music breathes,” writes composer John Kennedy. “Giving it breath and beauty is what we call music making.” Music is what composers create to reflect our human experience.

Creating music about place and in particular wilderness intersects my greatest passions—hiking, exploring and composing—and enables me to advocate for the ecocentric value of our natural heritage. Each place is different and its music equally varied. What is to happen to our parks and wilderness areas under our new administration? It’s a worrisome thought. But composers can be powerful ambassadors for the places they write about. The music can be performed anywhere.

Discovering a place as vast and richly diverse as Glacier National Park could be a lifelong endeavor.  Each visit brings new vistas, or a variation on previous experiences. I traveled to Glacier for my solo hikes both in June and September 2017 to vary my experience of the park. I decided to create this piece with three different movements to attempt to capture diverse facets of the park. Everyone thinks of the glaciers, or rather the melting of the glaciers, so I decided to not focus on the climate change impact on the park, but on the physical elements that tie it together – the mountains, sky and water and the color blue. The mountains appear blue on the horizon; the blue sky morphs during the day and night; glacial ice appears blue because the dense compacted ice of the glacier absorbs all the other colors except blue. 

The concerts on April 6th and 7th will be diverse with additional solo hikes from Matt Marble and Brian McWhorter. I’m very excited that cellist Marilyn de Oliveira will be performing Glacier Blue’s premiere. It’ll be fun!

—Christina Rusnak
Christina is a composer & explorer, and her work Glacier Blue is being premiered on our Solo Hikes concert.  For more information on Christina, visit her website at