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Bear Canyon Epitaphs is a collaborative, intermedia work for five performers that draws visual, sonic, and literary inspiration from the John B. Robert Dam (also known by locals as the “Arroyo del Oso” or “Bear Canyon” Dam) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The dam serves as a unique landmark in the community of northeast Albuquerque. The site has also gained recent notoriety as a featured location in the television series, Breaking Bad. 

As part of the city flood control system, it acts as a barrier between the urban environment of the city and the Sandia Mountains that stand just east of it. It is surrounded by walking and hiking trails that lead from the base of the mountains to the Rio Grande river—a trail that has long been shared by migrating bears and other wildlife. The Dam’s structure is visually striking, particularly because of its juxtaposition against the natural landscape in which it resides, and the repetition of cement pillars that bear a haunting resemblance to cemetery headstones.

 The weathered graffiti on the pillars acts as a sort of record of the people who have been there and the often harsh desert environment. It often serves as a gathering place for members of the community and it is common to see people sitting atop the high cement wall, enjoying the view or watching the evening sunset, from the street below. The site has another side to it as well, as it has also been the location of quite a bit of illegal activity including a violent attack of a young woman in December, 2014. This work takes into account all of these aspects of the space and presents them as a new musical space in which the performers are invited to interact with the scores, visual images, poetic imagery, and one another to create a collaborative performance and a communal experience.

Recording with score from the 2016 John Donald Robb Composers' Symposium. University of New Mexico, Keller Hall.

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