What is Sonic Peaks?

“How does one’s environment affect one’s creative work?”

Sonic Peaks is a unique adventure that will explore answers to that question. My name is Payton MacDonald. I’m a musician, filmmaker, and hiker.

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Payton at the summit of Lower Wolfjaw mountain in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, July 2020

In the summer of 2021 I plan to summit the 46 highest mountains in the Adirondack Park in upstate New York in a continuous flow state of physical exertion and creativity. The adventure will take about a month.

As I climb peak after peak, day after day, I’m going to create a piece (or collection of pieces) of music. The music will be notated in a traditional manner on staff paper that I’ll carry with me, and I will also record melodies and rhythms into a voice recorder that I can use later as material. For more information about the music, go HERE.

The 46ers are rugged, steep, and incredibly beautiful. They are all above 4,000 feet, with gorgeous vistas. Creating music in this environment–off the grid, deep in the wilderness, pushing myself to my physical and mental limits day after day–will be a unique experience unlike any other. I’ve created music in the wilderness before, but I’ve never really examined this question of how one’s environment impacts one’s creative work in such depth.

The film will focus on my adventure and thoughts about answering that question, but I plan to also engage other artists who spend a lot of time in the wilderness (including artists who live in the High Peaks region), and explore the connections between music and nature, and how environment shapes creative work.

  • Does one’s work change depending on the environment?

  • Is there a difference between sustained creative work indoors in controlled environments versus sustained creative work outdoors?

  • How does intense outdoor physical activity connect to creative work? Does it obstruct it? Or enable it?