The music department’s chair, Peter Yates, paid tribute to the naturalist John Muir in an astonishing solo piece performed last Wednesday at Cal Poly Pomona’s Recital Hall.

Yates commenced his performance with a generous five preludes of solo guitar that he said he included because of his occupation as a guitar professor.

“I try to find a pathway for everybody who might be there to find a way into what I’m doing,” Yates said.

Music Department Chair Peter Yates performs a guitar solo prelude. (Natali Perez | The Poly Post)

Yates then continued with his solo performance by playing the guitar, shaker, singing and making use of multimedia.

He had a box in front of him throughout the show which contained four puppets that served as different personas. He shed light on each one of them to indicate who he was referring to when portraying his responses to Muir’s Symposium.

Many audience members agreed that his performances took them on a loop as his performance ended right where it started off.

“The piece made a full circle back to the opening as John Muir walked across the world only to come back home waiting to see what his legacy leads,” fourth-year music performance major Jordan Rivera said. “The idea of having the conversation across time is really interesting. I like how it returned to the first part since he started with that at the beginning. It was really cool to be reminded of that at the end,” fourth-year music composition major Sean Gibson said.

Yates included multimedia in his tribute to naturalist John Muir. (Natali Perez | The Poly Post)

A slideshow was also projected onto a screen behind Yates as a visual supplement to his performance.

The slideshow contained various backgrounds and images of scenery, people and animals that would help the audience understand where and what Yates was singing about.

“I was astonished, first and foremost at how well he plays,” audience member Patrick Gibson said. “I’m always blown away by how original and thought provoking his music is. His voice was very expressive and almost Dylanesque. I enjoyed it a great deal and I like that the subject matter was challenging.”

Yates explains what inspired him to do this piece.

“I’ve always wanted to do a piece of John Muir because I thought he was such a saintly figure, but it wasn’t dramatically interesting to just have a piece about how wonderful he was,” Yates said. “So, when I read about a symposium on him, where they criticized him and tore him apart, I thought this was perfect because it would be for his 100th anniversary of his death and he wasn’t there to defend himself. So, I made this piece where his words respond to his critics.”

This isn’t the only time Yates has done something like this.

In the past, he has done a piece on the Watts Towers that covered a folk-art structure in Los Angeles and a piece on the Gold Rush where he used animations.

Yates mentioned that he used puppets in that Watts Towers piece and expresses a predilection for using multimedia in his performances from time to time.

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