For nearly a decade, I was a traveling Educator for NASA. Most school work, in those long-ago days on the NASA Education highway, was with 4-6 grades. Sometimes, though, we’d work with High school students. That age group can be a challenge. A former high school teacher myself, I had a few appropriate activities to use. One was to work them through The Drake Equation. (See also this BBC Interactive Page.) Another, a head-down bedrest exercise that let the chosen briefly experience and document the fluid shift caused by microgravity. The third was to read from George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides.
At Galena High School in Reno to work with Science Teacher Richard Brong’s students, I included the Earth Abides reading with other activities. After the session ended, Richard asked, “Do you know Philip Aaberg’s music?”
“Aaberg’s written and recorded a composition called ‘Earth Abides.'”
It was the beginning of a quest: To find a copy of the music; then, if possible, to find Philip Aaberg.
Fortunately, Missoula’s legendary Rockin Rudy’s had a copy of the Windham Hill CD, Harvest, with Aaberg’s composition.
Then, with some detective work on the web, I found the phone number for Sweetgrass Music, Phil and Patty Aaberg’s music (etc) business. Calling the number connected me with Patty Aaberg; Patty connected me with Phil.
Phil is an exceptional musician. In high school he regularly traveled 600 miles by train from Chester, Montana, to Spokane, Washington, (and 600 miles back) to study with a Julliard teacher who’d moved west to find students like Phil. He received a full scholarship to Harvard. When he found himself depressed by the Vietnam war, unable to create music, his brother sent him a copy of Stewart’s Earth Abides. The book, and others by Stewart, encouraged and inspired him, and he could once again create. The composition was his honoring of Stewart and Stewart’s great novel.
The friendship with Phil eventually led to his participation in a George R. Stewart Symposium at the annual CONTACT conference. There, Phil spoke of Stewart’s profound influence; then played several compositions, including Earth Abides.
Now – thanks to sponsors Bob Lyon, Junlin Pan, Ross and Charleen Bogert, Alan Kaplan, Joyce Stewart, and Doug Raybeck – the sheet music for Aaberg’s Earth Abides has been published. It’s for sale at a reasonable price, here:
If you play the piano or know someone who does, this is worth buying.
Even if you don’t play, buy it – the cover is worth framing.
If Stewart’s iconic novel becomes a successful mini-series, this will be a collector’s item.
Here’s more about Philip Aaberg, from an excellent website about simplification: