Andante: Ruth Boden Climbs Mountain to Perform Bach's Cello Suite in Short Documentary

By Steve Nagel on Apr 28, 2016 04:45 AM EDT

In a short documentary called Andante, viewers can now witness a cellist's puzzling excursion to her most out-of-the-way concert venue: a mountaintop.  That's right, Ruth Boden, an instructor of cello, bass, and chamber music at Washington State University, recently embarked on a hike to the top of the Matterhorn (in Oregon state), while carrying a cello on her back. She traveled with a small "film crew of one" according to CMuse, with the ultimate goal of performing Bach's cello suite at the summit, in an environment she says feels superior to that of the recital hall.

Boden, an avid mountaineer admits that hiking is no easy feat, even when carrying just the usual supplies and rations. An important factor in the success of any hike is parsing out weight distribution. After survival supplies, a cello might seem an unnecessary and frivolous burden. Still, the entire goal of the hike---if perhaps a bit more difficult to justify during her weariest spells---was always the endgame performance, which was finally given at the summit of Oregon's Matterhorn (near the peak of the Wallowa Mountains).

In an interview with Backpackers, Boden described the sensation of performing at high altitudes: "There are few words that can adequately describe the feeling and emotion that comes from playing that high up —- in a concert hall your sound always comes back to you and for me it can feel a little boxed in. On a mountain the sound just leaves you and becomes part of the landscape."

Equally as burdensome was the load on Ruth Boden's travel companion and filmographer, Gavin Carter of Reel Planet (a production and film company based in Oxford, England). Having to carry his own film and sound equipment, and far from any supply bin, Gavin's recording project was performed in total isolation. To record Boden, he grappled with the incessant wind noise at the summit; he fashioned baffles, and tried his best to maintain the realism of the experience for the documentary.

On selecting the pieces that would appear on her high-altitude "program", Boden said, "I always have two things that I play, especially if on top of a mountain — the Prelude and Sarabande to the 1st cello suite by Bach. These were two things that my dad always loved, and after he passed away I started playing these every time I am on top of a mountain because it just feels like maybe he can hear it."

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TagsBach, Ruth Boden, documentary, Music Documentary, cellist

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