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What is a grand piano doing in this sprawling Sonoma County meadow?

“In a Landscape” is a concert series that brings classical music to the great outdoors. | Courtesy Arthur Hitchcock

In 1948, the avant-garde composer John Cage wrote a minimalist piano piece called “In a Landscape,” which invokes the kind of serenity one can feel when wandering the outdoors alone. Cage later explained his creative process by referencing Indian musician Gita Sarabhai.

“The purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences,” Cage wrote.

Seventy-five years later, classical pianist Hunter Noack will pick up where Cage left off. On Saturday, he plans to play a 9-foot grand piano in a setting worthy of Cage’s composition—along the Beauty Ranch Meadow of Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma County. 

The outdoor concert is the latest in a series called “In a Landscape: Classical Music in the Wild,” which was founded by Noack in 2016. His team transports a Steinway grand piano on a flatbed trailer to parks, farms, ranches and historical sites across the country.

According to Noack, the project was inspired by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Music and Theatre Projects, which offered Americans free plays and concerts during the Great Depression. In 2023, “In a Landscape” will host 40 outdoor performances. 

A lifelong fisherman and kayaker, Noack envisioned “In a Landscape” as an alternative way to appreciate classical music, where traditional concert halls are supplanted by the great outdoors. On Saturday, Noack will invite the audience to traipse around the grounds of the sprawling park while he performs. Audience members who wander far afield won’t miss a beat, as all concertgoers will receive wireless headphones. 

Noack’s 2022 album of the same name includes classical and modern selections from composers like Schumann, Ravel and, of course, Cage.

The concert offers a singular way to explore Jack London State Historic Park, which is surrounded by rambling fields, vineyards and hiking trails. In that way, the music and setting is a nod to London—an author best-known for his literary explorations of the relationship between humans and nature.

In A Landscape 

🗓️ May 27 | 5:30-7 p.m. 
📍 2400 London Ranch Rd., Glen Ellen
🎟️ $40