Josh Evert is a songwriter/composer/producer from Milwaukee, WI. He was previously the Artist-in-Residence at Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, NE and ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) in Steuben, WI.
His credits for soundtracks include Al Jazeera's Faultlines series, The Laura Flanders Show and various projects by independent filmmakers. Josh is the primary songwriter of The Fatty Acids, who put out their fourth studio album, Dogs of Entertainment, in February of 2017. He also co-founded Silver City Studios, an audio work space on Milwaukee's south side.
The concept for “Braided River” started at a two-week residency at Denali National Park in July of 2017.
On one of many hikes through Denali’s six million acres of wilderness, I came upon a group of trees, dead but still standing in the ground. Using a Zoom H6, I went to sample sounds from them. Expecting flat percussive elements, I was absolutely blown away by the rich tones of the branches when I "plucked" them. The mic acted like a pickup on a giant guitar string.
Each branch revealed a different timbre depending on its diameter, length and structural integrity, so I took hundreds of samples. Digitizing and fine-tuning the samples, I built a chromatic midi instrument completely out of branch plucks.
Reading Carl Sagan’s "Billions and Billions" at the time was instilling in me a fear of exponential growth. This was reinforced when I met Dr. Peter Griffith of NASA’s Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), who, with his team, was studying the effects of global warming in the Arctic. An exponential growth in CO2 and methane could occur, he explained to me, as more organisms are able to survive off the ever-thawing permafrost. No one really knows what’s going to happen, but it’s a possibility. It’s important to measure these changes while they’re occurring in the Arctic, as they will not be staying in the Arctic.
I decided to try and aurally represent the idea of an exponential through repeated notes gaining in pitch and regularity. The opening of “Braided River” was born. Dr. Griffith would later explain to me that there was nothing exponential about my composition, but that this was okay, as I was sparing the listener from the unpleasantness of a true exponential (think screeching feedback from a mic too close to a speaker).
After the opening of the song, I allowed myself to bend the song in whichever direction it wanted to go, inspired by Denali’s iconic braided rivers. It was a bit of musical free-association with some eventual heavy digital manipulation.
Thanks: NPS, Staff of Denali National Park, Timmi Oyen, Stephen Woods, Lauren Polansky, Nancy Holman, Cinnamon Dockham, Davyd Betchkal, Stephen Lias, Tim and Terri Escher, and my coworkers/supervisors for their constant support.
The phrase “More circuitious … like a braided river” must also be attributed to Dr. Griffith from a conversation about how he got into his line of work.
Vocals and claps recorded at Silver City Studios.
Mixed by Josh Evert at Silver City Studios.
Mastered by Chuck Zink.