On January 2, 2016, armed militants took control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, one of the premiere birding sites in the U.S. The occupation lasted nearly a month. The incident was an instance not only of the illegal occupation of federally protected land, but an example of the daily encroachment of humans on land meant to be a shelter for animals, some of them endangered. There is a tacit assumption that, in visiting the many national parks throughout the country, a certain respect and distance is maintained between humans and the animals and plants around them. This piece is about our tendency to forget that simple rule.
Sanctuary is in three movements. The first, Prelude, introduces a quiet world with spaces in between to allow for environmental sounds to enter. Bird songs (sparrows and mourning doves, especially) are heard throughout. This texture builds into the second movement, Encroachment, where a distinctly angular melody winds its way through increasingly shorter interjections of bird songs, gathers steam and eventually drives out the birds entirely. The final movement, Postlude, offers a peaceful respite from the previous violence, a brief musical sanctuary recalling ideas from the beginning of the piece. Sanctuary is dedicated with deepest gratitude to the Music in the American Wild Ensemble.