The publication Arborienteering (Guelph) is, at once, a musical score, an event program, and a fanciful field guide for a site-specific composition for fifteen musicians, each under one of fifteen trees in the University of Guelph Arboretum. The project is conceived by Scott Thomson, co-composed with Karen Ng, and presented by the Guelph Jazz Festival on 25-26 July, 2021.
This score is one in a conceptually related series by Thomson that dates to 2006. It is not merely graphic in nature; it is also cartographic. It uses a map to propose spatial and temporal relationships between musicians and audiences, while leaving what is played largely to the musicians to create. Attendees can use it to ‘compose’ their experience of a piece that will sound differently depending on how one moves through space, an agency that mirrors that which creative musicians engage when they make music.
Along with the map and time-index, the publication features field-guide-type material (including beautiful watercolour illustrations by Patricia Beader) to help readers learn about both the musicians and trees. In sum, the book evokes the music, even for a reader who is unable to attend the July 2021 versions. At the same time, as a score, it proposes more music to be played and heard in the future.