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The Hills Are Alive: Maria Schneider Lets Memory Guide The Music

Maria Schneider's latest album is <em>The Thompson Fields</em>.
Courtesy of the artist
Maria Schneider's latest album is The Thompson Fields.

Jazz composer and bandleader Maria Schneider has lived in New York for years, but her new album, The Thompson Fields, takes its tone and inspiration from her home state of Minnesota. The Thompsons were farmers and close friends with Schneider's family when she was growing up — and every couple of years, she goes back to visit one of their sons, Tony, on their old family farm.

"Tony and I climbed to the top of his silo," Schneider says of a recent trip. "We were looking out over this vast landscape of fields, and the wind was blowing and it was making these waves of dark and light green ripple across the fields. ... You know, it was kind of this feeling of generations passing, and remembering this sense of community and the friends that are still there, friends that have gone. I was just taken by how rich a community can be in a seemingly very wide-open, almost empty-looking landscape."

Elsewhere on The Thompson Fields, nature takes a more active role — as in the tune "Arbiters of Evolution," for which she instructed two her saxophone players to imagine themselves as male birds of paradise vying for female attention. She discussed that and more with NPR's Arun Rath; hear their conversation at the audio link above.

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