Throughout 2016, Forest Park Forever has been celebrating its 30th anniversary as a nonprofit conservancy that helps restore, maintain and sustain the Park in partnership with the City of St. Louis. One of our most unique anniversary initiatives was our special Artist in Residence program, with the three winning artists/groups receiving a stipend to spend three weeks in Forest Park and create a new work of art inspired by that time.
One of the winning Artists in Residence, musical group The 442s, spent many days this past June bringing musical pop-ups to various locations throughout Forest Park. At each site, including the World's Fair Pavilion, Emerson Grand Basin, the Boathouse, the recreational path near Jefferson Lake and behind the Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center, one member of the band would play his instrument alongside a piano that could be played by anyone who happened to be passing by.
This participatory music-making led to the creation of "The Forest Park Forever Suite" — a three-part composition with accompanying videos that the band debuted at a public concert in September. (We will share this audio and video, or a link to it, when it becomes available.)
While the band readies a public release of this composition and related videos — news of which we'll share here — we caught up with 442s composer Adam Maness to get a little more insight into the work that went into their unique residency.
What was the inspiration for your Forest Park Forever residency proposal?
One of our missions with The 442s is to create interesting collaborations. Usually, that means working with other musicians or poets or dancers or the like. As soon as I heard about the Forest Park Forever residency program, I started to think about ways we might collaborate with Forest Park until I landed on this idea of collaborating with the people in the Park. From there, the project kind of wrote itself.
Did you have any particularly meaningful or interesting interactions with the public while you were working on-site?
My favorite interactions were with people that didn't play the piano, but were uninhibited when they sat down. Sometimes they didn't know a note of music, but we're so open to the experience that they ended up having some pretty meaningful interactions with us. Or they were scared at first and gradually opened up and began to communicate.
Did you learn anything new during your time in Forest Park?
We learned that the World's Fair Pavilion maintains a cool breeze, year-round.
What was the most challenging or rewarding part of turning the music recorded in the Park into a finished composition?
The most tedious part of this project was simply sorting through all of the footage. I cataloged the performances based on many variables — key, rhythm, range, etc. That process required the most focus and patience, but ultimately made the actual editing much easier.
Any closing thoughts about this project?
We loved spending time in the Park and loved meeting and playing music with so many of its users. Forest Park truly is a gem. The final composition is just icing on the cake compared to the experience of making it. I can't say that about every composition.
What’s next for The 442s?
We're very excited to be hosting our annual "Holiday Spectacular" at Washington University's 560 Music Center on December 20! We're planning on lots of special guests and surprises — oh and we're releasing a new holiday album. Should be fun.
You can stay in the loop about upcoming shows and releases from The 442s by visiting their website: the442s.com
On Thursday, September 29, we welcomed 200 people to the Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center to celebrate the completion of The 442s' residency with a free concert. The band played several songs, including the new music created from their time in the Park. We were thrilled to invite the public to experience the culmination of the group's residency, which included their new composition as well as a series of accompanying videos created by Five Owls Productions documenting the interactions between the band and Park visitors during their musical pop-ups in June. Thanks to our friends at Urban Chestnut Brewing Company for providing complimentary beer at this event!