PUTNEY, Vt. — Yellow Barn Music Festival is set to open the Beethoven Walks, a series of trail walks with accompanying music and reproductions of Beethoven’s hand-written sketches and manuscripts, created by Yellow Barn Artistic Director Seth Knopp. A project with national reach, Yellow Barn has sponsored the first two walks as a gift to its community. Located in Putney, they are free and open to the public.
“These walks open in honor of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, and are dedicated to the world his music shows us is possible,” Knopp said.
Knopp imagined his Beethoven Walks project last fall, as part of a larger visual tribute to Beethoven, a birthday gift of work by five local artists inspired by his music. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, a sense of urgency motivated Knopp to accelerate its creation. The trails are best enjoyed in solitude, and provide a way of social distancing in a way that comes naturally to much of the local population.
Beethoven Walks currently feature two trails, the Greenwood Trail on Putney’s Greenwood School campus and the Hannum Trail on Putney Mountain. Yellow Barn has gifted the Greenwood Trail walk to the Greenwood School. At the request of the Putney Mountain association, the Hannum Trail will close July 18.
The walks incorporate hundreds of reproductions of Beethoven’s sketches, or leaves from his autograph manuscripts, bannered on trees with customized bungee cords. Music posts placed along the path will prompt people to listen to Beethoven’s works corresponding with these sketches and manuscripts. These autographs lead visitors along the path, or to listening places that invite more spacious listening and looking. Those walking the path connect with Beethoven’s music, his creative process and the inspiration he drew from nature.
Said one visitor, “What an extraordinary experience … so touching for musicians and nonmusicians alike. While in the forest, I think I forgot about the pandemic for the first time since it started, which is really saying something.”
Throughout the course of two months a team of more than a dozen people in the local community banded together to bring the Beethoven Walks to life, including trail adviser and woodworker Michael Kohout, who built eight benches and 13 music posts specifically for these trails.
To experience a Beethoven Walks trail, download the app for each trail onto your phone or other device. The app includes the music playlist, directions to the trailhead, and information about the manuscripts. Instructions can be found at www.yellowbarn.org/beethovenwalks Yellow Barn’s website.