Printer-friendly version Share:  Share this page on FacebookShare this page on TwitterShare this page by emailShare this page with other services

Songs About John Muir

John Muir Tribute CD Now Available!John Muir Tribute CD

Each of the following links offers artist and album information, sound clips, and lyrics.


Songs Inspired by John Muir

* Note: There are numerous additional instrumental and some vocal pieces with the title "Range of Light" or "John Muir" but most appear to just use Muir's name without otherwise linking the piece to Muir himself.

Orchestral and Opera Music Inspired by John Muir

  • This Grand Show is Eternal music by Lee Kesselman - a setting of texts by John Muir, commissioned and performed by San Francisco Lyric Chorus in honor of their 10th anniversary.
  • Winds composed by Richard Cowan,  Artist in Residence, Northern Kentucky University - 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 of 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.
  • "River of Mercy," composed by Andrew Norman, had its world premiere in Oakland's Paramount Theatre on April 22, 2007. This 22-minute opus, 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. (Source: Review: "Aquatic imagery doesn't hold water in 'River of Mercy' by Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic, San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 2007.
  • 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.
  • John Muir - University of the Wilderness, a narrative concert for voice and string quartet, composed by Cheryl Leah and Ed Willett, performed by "urban chamber music" group "Chance." In "University of the Wilderness", Muir's words are accompanied by a score of "nature-forged" new music. This "Chance" ensemble piece is comprised of voice, cello, violin and narrator. The narrator links together a collection of both vocal and non-vocal musical pieces. The musical style combines contemporary, classical, and celtic music. With the narrator as the production's purveyor of Muir's words, the ensemble celebrates Muir's story from his childhood in Scotland to his young life in Wisconsin and to his profound experiences in the great Sierra Nevada Mountains. However, the program is not a historical account, but rather in the composers' word, "a performance that portrays a philosophical landscape aimed at inspiring all of us to revivify that part in ourselves that shares a kinship with Muir." After its 2014 premiere, there was a 10 performance run in the Mid-West, a 2015 tour to Scotland, and in 2016, 32 performances across 12 states, covering 26,000 miles in celebration of the centennial of the National Park Service. The group now is currently working on their next push for the program which is to bring the performance to metropolitan hubs in the U.S. and abroad in celebration of natural World Heritage sites in as many of the countries that Muir visited as they can.

    • The Range of Light, composed by Keith Fitch, will be premiered in summer of 2017 at the Rocky Ridge Music Center in Rocky Mountain National Park. The work uses texts selected from several of John Muir's writings, including "Our National Parks," "My First Summer in the Sierra," "The Yosemite," as well as various unpublished texts. The performance date is Sunday, July 9, 2017 at 3pm at Rocky Ridge (located outside Estes Park, CO). See the Rocky Ridge Music Center page on The Range of Light (off-site link) for more information. Click here to buy tickets for the July 29, 2017 concert at Rocky Ridge Music Center.
    • "Come to the Woods" by Jake Runsestad, is an 11- minute piece for chorale by an award-winning American composer of classical music based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As reported by Broadway World, "The text for the work is taken from the writings of John Muir, the famous Scottish-American naturalist, explorer, and early advocate for preserving the American wilderness. The music presents vivid sound "pictures" that evoke the lyrics." The text begins with Muir's exhilarating statement "Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue." Jake Runestad's explains his peice thusly: "'Come to the Woods' explores Muir's inspirations and the transporting peace found in the natural world. Using a collage of fragments from Muir's writings, the work ventures from the boisterous joy of a "glorious day," to the quiet whispering of wind, to the rejuvenating power of a storm, to the calming "amber light" when the clouds begin to clear. I hope it captures the self-discovery and sustenance one encounters while exploring the outdoors and its vital importance in our lives. Most recently, the work is included in a concert presented by the Sonoran Desert Chorale in Mesa (October 7, 2017) and Scottsdale (October 8, 2017), Arizona. Broadway World expounds: "And the piano accompaniment displays the talents of the Chorale's accompanist, Mutsumi Mori. This is an extraordinary choral work and an experience not to be missed."
      Premiere performance by Conspirare available on YouTube showing its World premiere at St. Martin's Lutheran Church, Austin, TX, May 9, 2015.
      Also available on YouTube (Jake Runestad's channel) and on Soundcloud performed by the Georgia State University Singers -- Deanna Joseph, conductor.
      Score Available for Purchase from Jake Runestad - with lyrics, Issu preview, soundcloud, and video files embedded.
    • "Sequoia Trio" by American composer Jenni Brandon. Brandon describes the piece: "Each movement of the "Sequoia Trio" takes a quote about Sequoia trees from John Muir's book The Yosemite and uses it to inspire the music. The opening waving pattern creates the gentle breeze as the growth of the tree starts in the bassoon, moving through the clarinet and is carried all the way to the top of the tree through the oboe. Movement two is sassy and jazzy, describing the kind of resilient attitude that young trees must maintain in order to survive. Finally, in "The Noble Trees," the instruments play a hymn-like tribute to the largest living things on earth. The two "Tree Interludes" represent the individual voice of a tree and its story." The piece is performed live by such music groups as Annapolis Symphony Woodwind Trio at the National Music Festival in Maryland, on on Jenni Brandon's album Songs of California. which is available in digital format or CD on CDBaby, Amazon, and iTunes.
    • "On and On and" by Matt McBane is a a choral piece based on the writings on John Muir. A recording performed by Sacra/Profana, conducted by Krishan Oberoi. Released 5/5/2015 may be purchased or free download at bandcamp. Premiered September 2014 at the Carlsbad Music Festival. Composer McBane reports that the piece was inspired by a visit to Yosemite in 2013, where he says he "encountered quotes by John Muir on signs throughout the park. Prior to this, I was familiar with Muir as a naturalist, but had not paid attention to his writings. When reading them I was taken aback by how poetic they were. At a particularly stunning viewpoint to at the entrance of Yosemite Valley, there was a sign with the following Muir text: "This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turns, as the round earth rolls." Reading this, I knew Muir's writings were what I was looking for. So, I searched his books for the right text, and saw that more than once when referring to the eternal cycles of nature, he used the phrase "on and on." In that, I found my text (and my title), just the two words "on" and "and." In "On and On and" the singers build up patterns first using only the word "on," then completing the patterns with the gradual addition of the word "and." As the piece ends the patterns break down removing the word "on," leaving only the word "and."

See also John Muir Bibliography, Music Section for annotations, and additional listings of instrumental music inspired by John Muir.

For more environmental songs, including Songs About Hetch Hetchy, go to Harold Wood's collection of Earth Songs (offsite link)

Return to Songs and Audio About John Muir


Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2017 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.