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Image by Weston MacKinnon


2019 • Symphony Orchestra • 9'

2222 • 43211 • timpani + 3 percussion • strings

a rhapsodic, nature-inspired symphonic work
(optionally performed with film by former National Eminent Photographer Frank Lee Ruggles)

Image by Ashim D’Silva

Awards & Performances

Frank Lee Ruggles created Expedition to be screened over the live orchestra with new works by Jennifer Jolley & Lauren Spavelko. This video includes MIDI realizations.

Jennifer Jolley's Blue Glacier Decoy  underscores Part One: Monochrome (the black-and-white photography), at the start of the film.

Kéyah underscores Part Two: Spectrum (the color photography), beginning at 6'30.

Expedition — a film by Frank Lee Ruggles

Central Ohio Symphony


Central Ohio Symphony, Jaime Morales-Matos (conductor). April 27, 2019. Delaware, Ohio.


Performance by the University of Louisville Symphony Orchestra

Program Note

Commissioned by the Central Ohio Symphony in honor of its 40th Anniversary, Kéyah invites listeners into a rhapsodic world to match Frank Lee Ruggles’s breathtaking photographs of America’s natural wonders. Kéyah is the Navajo word for “land,” which reflects our land’s history and the depth and breadth of Ruggles’s work.

Musically, these photos suggest a rich, diverse palette of sound with high contrast in color, texture, and mood. Melodies from individual instruments reflect the land’s distinct details, while the power of the full ensemble matches the sweeping grandeur of its magnificent scenes. I imagined many sounds and pictures as I wrote. Stirring animals. Birds in flight. Wind rustling grasses. Sand brushing over rock. Brilliant sunsets and shaded canyons. Ultimately, the musical story of Kéyah through America’s landscape is guided only by the listener’s imagination and Ruggles’s photos.

Image by Jeremy Bishop

Praise for "Kéyah"


A highly effective work ... one of the best of its kind and worthy of many performances. The composer recognizes that the simplest ideas can be very powerful when carefully controlled. The score is luminous and elegant, enthusiastic and positive ... the music does more than simply "accompany" the photos, but seems to "translate" them—part of the reason the piece works so well. The music also works on its own, without the visuals, and it allows the listener to create his or her own images. But it is the combination, so well worked out, that is impressive in this collaboration. The ending is especially moving: the clouds moving away overhead, captured in music of uplift, without cloying."

— David Katz, Chief Judge for the American Prize

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