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“Darkness Sounding” Takes Music Outside

On a chilly Los Angeles morning in late January, I woke up an hour before dawn and drove to Griffith Park, a rugged expanse that stretches northeast of the Hollywood Hills. Five times the size of Central Park, and home to a solitary mountain lion, Griffith brings a tinge of wilderness to the urban sprawl. During the pandemic, it has been more crowded than usual, but in the half-light of 6 A.M. there was no one about. I hiked up to a point where downtown L.A. became visible. Rains had recently come through, and mists rose from vegetation, giving a gauzy shimmer to the lights of the awakening city.

During quarantine, I’ve been going on regular sunrise hikes—a habit that would have dismayed my militantly nocturnal younger self. Usually, I leave my phone behind, but this time I brought it with me, so that I could attend a musical event. Since January 15th, the L.A.-based ensemble Wild Up has been presenting a socially distanced, mostly online festival called “Darkness Sounding,” and today’s offering was an audio stream of Andrew McIntosh’s “A moonbeam is just a filtered sunbeam”—an hour-long piece that combines instrumental sounds with field recordings of the wind passing through stands of pine trees.

The inaugural edition of “Darkness Sounding” took place last winter, in both indoor and open-air settings. Christopher Rountree, Wild Up’s rambunctious, imaginative leader, has described the festival as an exercise in “embracing ritual, nature, space, listening and simply being together.” Sunrise and sunset bracketed several performances in the series. In the past year, that emphasis on diurnal rhythms has become pertinent in a way that Rountree could not have anticipated. Amid enforced inactivity, the apparition of the sun becomes a

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