For lyrics and sound clips, see individual song titles below or go to Songs About John Muir
"Muir's prose uses music as a persistent metaphor to relate his experience of listening to the wind. He describes the "profound bass" of branches and "boles booming like waterfalls; the quick tense vibrations of the pine-needles, now rising to a shrill, whistling hiss, now falling to a silky murmur." - Justin Ralls
"I drifted on through the midst of this passionate music and motion, across many a glen, from ridge to ridge; often halting in the lee of a rock for shelter, or to gaze and listen. Even when the grand anthem had swelled to its highest pitch, I could distinctly hear the varying tones of individual trees,â€”Spruce, and Fir, and Pine, and leafless Oak,â€”and even the infinitely gentle rustle of the withered grasses at my feet. Each was expressing itself in its own way,â€”singing its own song, and making its own peculiar gestures,â€”manifesting a richness of variety to be found in no other forest I have yet seen." ~John Muir, Wind Storm in the Forests of the Yuba, published in The Mountains of California
John Muir Tribute CD, John Muir Memorial Association, 1999. (Compact Disk) Produced by Jill Harcke and Dan McIlhenny. (off-site link)
An outstanding collection of music about or evocative of John Muir, together with quotations from John Muir read by a variety of Muir scholars and experts. This is a fundraiser for the John Muir Memorial Association, published in a limited edition. Our description page includes Real Audio and MP3 sound clips from the album.
Mountain Days: The John Muir Musical, Original Cast Recording (2001). Willows Theatre Company,
1425 Gasoline Alley, Concord, CA 94520, (925) 798-1300,
Excerpts from this wonderful musical feature Craig Bohmler's music and Mary Bracken Phillips' lyrics telling John Muir's life story, most notably: The Thousand Miles Walk, Climb the Mountains, Political Waltz, Ghosts, and A Valley Has A Soul. Unfortunately, the original cast recording omits the song, "Bully" - a duet between Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir.
The Black Irish Band (offsite link) performs "The Ballad of John Muir" - music and lyrics by Patrick Michael Karnahan. Featured on the group's 1997 album California Story.
This song is one of 15 original songs about the people, places, and music of California featured on the group's 1997 album California Story. It is performed in an up-beat style, inspiring us to think "John Muir's out there, if only we believe."
Bruce Campbell's composition,
"Range of Light" (offsite link) for symphonic band with bagpipe obbligato, is another of a growing body of work with the same title.
This composition was based upon the writings of John Muir, first performed on Friday, December 11, 1998, at Wharton Center, Michigan State University. The composer describes the piece as "a tone poem which chronicles a day in the mountains - capturing the myriad an unforgettable effects of light upon the natural environment, from pre-dawn to nightfall." A special and perhaps unique feature of the work is the inclusion of the highland bagpipe, a nod to Muir's origins and the outdoor instrument par excellence, associated with wild and rugged landscape.
William Camphouse's original concert bandcomposition, "A Dauntless Sould" is an original, three-movement piece celebrating the life of naturalist and author John Muir the title â€œA Dauntless Soulâ€ is how President Theodore Roosevelt described John Muir in a remembrance written in 1916. It was commissioned by the John Swett High School music program and composed for the musicians of the high school and Carquinez Middle School. The piece premiered at the John Swett High School in Crockett, California on May 17, 2013. John Muir was a close friend of John Swett, who as California Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 1860s is credited with making California's public schools free for all students, and for whom the school district and the high school are named. Camphouse is a retired educator and musician who has conducted and played trumpet with numerous community orchestras. He comments, noting that Muir has inspired numerous other orchestral pieces as well as folk ballads and a musical,: "In creating â€œA Dauntless Soul,â€ it was my aim to represent three constants that are found throughout Muirâ€™s words and evidenced in his deeds, and address these in terms accessible to student musicians and diverse audiences." The music director of the John Muir High Schol music program is Vincent Pitzulo, a percussionist, who has had a long professional career as a performer and conductor with symphony and pop orchestras and as a director of musical plays.
Theresa Caroll's booklet, John Muir Sings: A Collection of Scottish Airs Sung by the Naturalist, now out of print, was published in 1978. It contains a general introduction about Muir's love for the Scottish language and music, and individual introductions to each of ten traditional Scottish songs showing their relationship to Muir, along with the complete lyrics and musical notation. The traditional Scottish songs featured include "Gilderoy," "The Cuckoo," "Oh! Why Left I My hame?," "Highland Mary," "Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigie Len," "The Banks o' Doon," "the Lass o' Gowrie," "O'er the Water to Charlie," "Old Hundredth," and "For A' That An' A' That."
Richard Cowan's "Winds," a 25 minute piece
for small orchestra and solo tenor, a quasi-operatic role that has John
Muir as narrator in Muir's beautiful text A
Wind Storm in the Forest.
In this orchestral -operatic work we follow
Muir noticing the budding windstorm in a friend's log cabin, his climb
up the mountain, shimmying up the tree, enjoying the colors, scents
and rhythms of the wind storm, and the slow descent in the evening, as
the storm dies away. The world premiere of this operatic work will take
place in July 2006 in France, on Belle Ile en Mer, off the Coast
of Brittany, as part of the Lyrique
in Mer Festival, the largest opera festival in Western France.
The Deedle Deedle Dees's song "John
Muir" is on on their 2009 album American History + Rock-n-Roll
= The Deedle Deedle Dees.
This song, like other Deedle Deedle Dee songs, is geared toward
simply identifying someone from American history in a fun way, in hopes kids
may then want to read more about them. The group's educational philosophy
according to founding member Lloyd Miller goes like this: "During the
course of this song, they won't learn much more about these people than they
already knew" -- but the kids will have fun and perhaps be inspired
to learn more. Thus, the silly lyrics of this song may make sense only in
light of this philosophy. Read more...
Doron Diamond's song John
an rock-pop instrumental on Diamond's album Silo.
Gail Lynne Dreifus' song "The Legend of John Muir"
is included on her cassette tapes
Yosemite by Song
National Parks by Song
Gail Lynne Dreifus, Recycled String Band,
P.O. Box 66, El Portal CA 95318.
This song recounts the story of Muir's life
in a simple fashion especially for kids.
Robert Gerster's "Range of Light" is an orchestral piece inspired by John Muir.
This was first performed by the Fresno Chamber Music Ensemble as part of its fifth anniversary celebration in 1982. It was given its first full orchestral performance by the Tulare County Symphony Orchestra later that same year, and was again performed by the same orchestra as part of the outdoor Sequoia National Park Centennial Commemorative Concert in 1990.
The piece includes the following quotation from John Muir: "Of all the mountain ranges I have climbed, I like the Sierra Nevada the best. Benevolent, solemn, fateful, pervaded with divine light, every landscape glows like a countenance hallowed in eternal repose. And how bright is the shining, after summer showers and dewy nights and after frosty nights in spring and autumn, when the morning sunbeams are pouring through the crystals on the bushes and in winter through the snow-laden trees! Well may the Sierra be called The Range of Light."
Barry Hertz song,
"Creation's Dawn (Ode to John Muir) has been recorded for a forthcoming album.
Lyrics and other information is available on the Creation's Dawn page.
Betsy Keithcart's song,
"Tribute to John Muir"
is included on her cassette tape,
Mother of Pearl
Betsy Keithcart's lovely soprano, accompanied by the troubadour harp, offers a beautiful melody, gently
evocative of Muir's love of the wilderness.
8900 Old Creek Drive,
Elk Grove, CA 95758.
"John of the Mountains",
by Matthew Werner,
is recorded on their cassette tape,
First Light of Dawn
(1993) Catalpa Records,
P.O. Box 1314,
Santa Cruz CA 95061.
Telephone: (408) 427-1324
With the refrain using Muir's "Climb the Mountains..." quote,
this is a melodic,
inspirational song featuring nice harmonies.
Lyrics and introductions included on liner notes.
Sasha Matson's Range of Light (offsite link) for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Orchestra, Texts by John Muir
This composition, in modern "classical" style, contains four movements, each featuring poetic text from John Muir sung by Mezzo- Soprano Catherine Robbins. The composer encountered the Sierra Nevada on family camping trips growing up, and "Range of LIght" was composed after he encountered for the first time the writings of John Muir, in particular the posthumously published excerpts from his journals. Sasha Matson writes: "Two primary images are enacted in the music. First, the granite and stone that for Muir were alive; the homophonic/chordal textures express a solidity that undergirds the melodic line. Secondly, Light in the Emersonian sense; the use of canonic technique is a musical allegory for the wonderful language employed by Muir to describe Light in constant reflection, refraction, transmutation, - as a corporeal expression of Spirit; this melodic dimension is the primary axis of the music."
More information is available on the New Albion Records website noted above.
Kathy Muir's song "Sweet and Easy" celebrates Muir's lyrical approach to Nature, along with appreciation for artists Elizabeth Colborne (1885-1948) and The Seattle Camera Club (1924-1929). Song is available on Kathy Muir's album Far from Entirely.
Brian McNeill's song,
"Muir and the Master Builder" is included on the Compact Disc,
The Back o' the North Wind
(Tales of the Scots in America) (1991),
3 Morven St.,
Edinburgh EH4 7LG SCOTLAND.
Singer-songwriter McNeill wonders in song whether Muir would have done the same
for Scotland as he did for California had he stayed in the country of his birth.
Contemporary folk sound.
Album notes include a brief sketch of Muir and complete lyrics.
The song has also been recorded by Dick Gaughan and Ed Miller.
Joan McMillin's piano music accompanies
"Readings from John Muir", 30 minutes. (1993)
John Duryea reads selected passages from Muir's journals,
taken from John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, and Joan McMillin surrounds and connects them with improvisational piano music. Selections include some of Muir's most spiritual, philosophical, and inspirational quotations. Includes personal introduction by John Duryea, and an introduction to the texts, quoting Linnie Marsh Wolfe, presented by Joan McMillen. Ordering information at Joan McMillin's website indicated above.
George Michalski's instrumental piece, "John Muir" is included on the cassette tape
This instrumental piano and violin piece is included on an album inspired by Yosemite, with other topics like "Waterfalls," "Sequoias," "Miwoks," and "Mountains."
Andrew Norman's 22-minute orchestral opus, "River of Mercy," composed
by Andrew Norman, had its world premiere in Oakland's Paramount Theatre on
April 22, 2007.
This work, commissioned by Michael Morgan and the
Oakland East Bay Symphony, is a paean to the splendors of the Merced River.
Using spoken excerpts from writings of the naturalist John Muir as a guide,
it traces the river's course from the Sierras down to the sea. "The
wild young river is singing the song of creation/Thrilling plants and animals
and rocks alike." (Source: Review:
"Aquatic imagery doesn't hold water in 'River of Mercy' by Joshua Kosman,
Chronicle Music Critic, San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 2007.
Bill Oliver's song,
"Muir Power To You",
is recorded on two cassette tapes,
Better Things to Do
both available from Live Oak Records & Tapes,
515 E. 40th St.,
Austin TX 78751.
This is a rousing,
high-spirited song praising Muir's life and encouraging listeners to follow in his footsteps.
foot-tapping country-folk sound touching on many important events of Muir's life;
Bill Oliver's song "Me and Stickeen" is included on his album
Friend of the River.
Based on John Muir's true story, Stickeen, this is a ballad sung from the perspective of John Muir himself. Faithful to Muir's book-length story, but distilled down to the essence, this song elicits strong emotions as you hear about man and dog's perilous crossing of a glacier.
Bill Oliver's 2005 song Hooray
for Hetch Hetchy is the new theme song for Restore
This song celebrates John Muir's beloved Hetch Hetchy, inviting the
listener to "Imagine yourself in Hetch Hetchy... Imagine a second Yosemite...
Imagine a Tuolumne River set free..." Some of the lyrics are
adapted from John Muir's book The Yosemite.
Mary Bracken Phillips and Craig Bohmler's song, "Climb the Mountains", part of Mountain Days: The John Muir Musical
Craig Bohmler's music and Mary Bracken Phillips' lyrics combine in a powerful celebration of John Muir's outdoors philosophy. Phillips says the words all came from Muir, but
she arranged them lyrically. Sung in the First Act of the musical by the young John Muir with his friend Chilwell, the
song is reprised the Act II as the resounding finale at the end of the musical.
Justin Ralls has composed several orchestral piecds, including an opera, inspired by John Muir and his writings:
- Tree Ride, composed by Justin Ralls, performed by San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra (YouTube). "Tree Ride" was inspired by John Muir's famous essay "Wind-storm in the Forests of the Yuba." The first time Muir consciously chose to make himself the subject of his writing, he recounts the ecstasy of climbing a douglas fir to "obtain a wider outlook and get my ear close to the Aeolian music of its topmost needles."
(Premiered by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra under the direction of Scott Sandmeier, September 28, 2013).
- Two Yosemites: An Outdoor Chamber Opera by Justin Ralls. An opera adapted from the play "The Tramp and the Roughrider"
by Lee Stetson, adapted from letters, speeches, and writings of John
Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. Two Yosemites: An Outdoor Opera coming to a National Park near you by Justin Ralls. | Act One is available on YouTube.
Premiered by the San Francisco Conservative of Music New Music Ensemble, Conducted by Nicole Paiement on May 13, 2014.
- Tree-Wavings, a six minute work for string quartet, premiered at the 2014 Oregon Bach Festival by Fear No Music. The composer, Justin Ralls, writes: "The writings of John Muir have become a guiding inspiration in my music. It is not only his wonderful literary storytelling and lyrical style but also his sense of experience and place that lures me in. We also tend to share a love for the same experiences and places. Muir shows us where to go and how to listen; where to find wildness in a new and creative way. Often this is as much a spiritual journey as it is a physical one. John Muir's sense of place and his own creativity continually embolden me."
Jonathon Sprout's song Come
Back Home celebrating John Muir, from his album, American
This song celebrating John Muir is available on Jonathan Sprout's third album
about American heroes, American Heroes #3. Although categorized
in the children’s music genre, American
Heroes #3 is anything but juvenile. It’s a collection
of pop rock tunes with a sophisticated sound, rich with intricate, interweaving
counter melodies and a full assortment of instruments, including walls
of electric and acoustic guitars, pop synth sounds, banjos, mandolins,
accordions, horns and various keyboards. Sprout's clear strong voice
is frequently accompanied by background vocalists who are not children,
unlike so much children's music.
Dan Thomasma and TerryYazzolino's two-part John Muir
Suite: Hymn to the Wilderness and
A Mountaineer's Prayer are included on their album Trails
Plowed Under, Legends of the West (2003).
This pair of songs
evoke the spirit of the wilderness as seen through the spirit
of John Muir. These two songs, are part of the musicians' John Muir
The first song of the John Muir Suite, Hymn
to the Wilderness uses
direct quotations from John Muir as the lyrics. The refrain is the famous "Climb
the mountains...." quotation. The second song of the John Muir
Mountaineer's Prayer uses different quotes and paraphrases from Muir,
evoking the spirit of the wilderness, its silence and mystery.
For more information: Medicine Tree Music
John Muir Suite:
to the Wilderness (iTunes link)
Mountaineer's Prayer (iTunes link)
Ed Willet's narrative concert for voice and string quartet, "John Muir - University of the Wilderness," performed by Chance. This piece uses the conservationist's own words to tell his story. Read article and listen to interview of the composer and excerpts of the composition from Public Radio International (PRI) "Living on Earth" series: New music brings conservationist John Muir's story to life (
June 22, 2015).
Douglas Wood's song, "The Big Trees Are Down"
(co-written with Edith Rylander)
is included on the cassette tape
The Science Museum of Minnesota,
This song celebrates the lives of great naturalist-conservationists,
including besides Muir such luminaries as
Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold,
Rachel Carson, and Sigurd Olsen.
"Who will love the land,
now the big trees are down?"
The entire album is an absolutely outstanding collection of songs
with themes of ecology and the great outdoors.
Suitable for young and old.
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