This sound piece is an original spiritual inspired by the history of American migration. Sara recorded the solo performance alone at night while walking the varied terrain of the site - high grass, mud, gravel road, dead leaves. She then layered the recordings together, so that each iteration begins in unison and gradually drifts out of sync due to variations in tempo. This piece was created at Residency 108 in Clermont, NY, and originally presented as a sound installation consisting of five speakers arranged in an arc, a single recording played in each speaker.
A performance of Catskills Songline took place in the Residency 108 barn during open studios. Visitors were invited to gather and Sara led the group in singing the melody in unison with provided "hymn sheets." Instead of lyrics, the group sang solfège syllables (fa, sol, la, etc.), a common practice in shape note singing. Though the words were meaningless and the subject entirely secular, the experience of communal singing lent a spiritual element to the performance, evoking a hymn to the landscape.
Catskills Songline is a melody derived from the shape of the Catskill mountains as observed from Residency 108. Working from a photograph taken inside Anne-Katrin Spiess' Thinking Box for Contemplating the Horizon Line, Sara made these visual studies as a means of translating physical landscape into melody. In the first study, a musical staff layered over the mountains' silhouette suggests a guideline open to interpretation, with a key signature but no actual notes. The second study incorporates musical notation but no staff, suggesting a playful quality. The melody is written in shape notes, a musical notation which originated in New England in the early 1800s as a teaching method and which has become closely associated with the tradition of Southern congregational singing known as Sacred Harp.