The Terminal Orchestra’s “The Seasons” Overview
by August Smith
Orchestrated music is a form dependent on the listener. You get out of it what you put into it, essentially, and it takes creative and active listening. Jesse DeClaire’s (yooper musician of Chanteymen and Redette fame) project The Terminal Orchestra, which started out as a small studio idea aimed at creating movie soundtracks for nonexistent movies but has since become a live ensemble bursting with strings and emotion, is a project that offers powerful rewards for such listeners.
The Seasons is a loose and simple concept album, with each song representing- surprise!- the various seasons as they manifest themselves in the Upper Peninsula. To me, this album is a testament to how music can wordlessly conjure up images and ideas; each song captures a natural essence that gives it color and emotion, and the choices for each song and how they correspond to the season make sense. “Summer Song” is fittingly light and mellow with the melody mostly controlled by a warm-sounding guitar, and it’s structured in a waltz-like manner. “Fall Song” is harsher and hurried, more drawn out and foreboding with a heart-breaking melody. As fall comes to a close, “Winter Song” slides in. The melody is controlled by the violin, now, with a cello heartbeat and guitar-string shivers. The climax of the album, the fifteen-minute closer “Spring Song”, storms in like a march- huge toms pounding, guitar cutting though the winter gloom with the violin giving it voice. The song builds to an electric guitar and flute melody with dramatic cymbal crashes on a repeating leitmotif, cascading down to the sounds of chirping bugs and birds reminiscent of a Midwestern spring evening. This soundtrack doesn’t need a nonexistent movie, because it makes its own. Even if orchestrated music isn’t something you find yourself interested in, The Terminal Orchestra may strike certain nostalgic chords for you, and is definitely worth a look.