"Longleaf" promotional poster

“Longleaf,” a multimedia work by Dr. Ben Morris, assistant professor of composition at SFA, will be premiered by Houston-based Loop38 new music ensemble at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7, in Cole Concert Hall, Wright Music Building, on the SFA campus.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – “Longleaf,” a multimedia work that tells the story of the now-endangered native longleaf pine forest of East Texas, will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7, in Cole Concert Hall, Wright Music Building, on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus.

Commissioned by Houston-based new music ensemble Loop38 and created by Dr. Ben Morris, assistant professor of composition at SFA, “Longleaf” traces the history of the longleaf tree and the timber industry in East Texas with video projections, historical photographs, natural soundscapes and music, raising awareness about the ecological importance of native forests and their reliance on prescribed fire, according to Morris.

“When you look deeper into the history of the pine forests of East Texas, there’s a rich tapestry of different people engaging with the landscape,” he said. “The original pine forest habitat of the area, the longleaf pine, is a fascinating fire-adapted tree that relies on frequent burns, both natural and manmade, to keep the landscape open. In this piece, I wanted to capture that unique pine savannah landscape through sound and visuals, recording immersive multi-channel audio of the fauna, flora and weather events you might hear there. The musicians in the ensemble interact with this soundscape throughout the work.”

The project was funded in part by an SFA Fine Arts Faculty Excellence Grant and includes collaborations with the Nature Conservancy, the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture and SFA students. The project also received support from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Loop38 will conduct a residency at SFA working with student musicians. Their premiere performance of “Longleaf” will be accompanied by a recording session, several outreach events such as masterclasses, a panel discussion featuring a question-and-answer session with longleaf expert Shawn Benedict, and a walking tour of Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary, a remaining stand of longleaf pine near Kountze.

“I want to engage the local community through this piece,” Morris said. “Shawn Benedict, who works at the Nature Conservancy, will be present for a Q-and-A session after the premiere of the work. As a manager of Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary, he provides insight into how prescribed fires work to rejuvenate the landscape.

“Having a professional ensemble, Loop38, present on campus will be a great opportunity for the students to engage with working musicians,” he added. “The group will read through student compositions and give a composition studio class about running an ensemble and working with composers. I hope to inspire students with interdisciplinary projects that bring in experts from many areas and encourage them to collaborate with individuals outside their field.”

Cole Concert Hall is located in the Wright Music Building, 2210 Alumni Drive. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. To purchase tickets, visit the SFA Fine Arts Box Office website or call (936) 468-6407. For additional information, contact the SFA School of Music at (936) 468-4602.

More information about the Nature Conservancy/Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary can be found on their website. For more information about Loop38, visit their website.