Dean De BenedictisMusician finds the summit of his craft on Mount Hood posted on 08/31/2019
Dean De Benedictis made it to the summit of Mount Hood on
Sunday, Jun 16, on his fifth attempt. But his journey to the top was far from
typical, as he carried more than 80 pounds of music and recording equipment as
part of the Summit Music Project, his vision to reach the summit of every
Cascadian volcano to create live ambient electronic music.
“I’m trying to be a good artist as well as do wild things
artistically,” said De Benedictis, who is based in Los Angeles. “I have moments
where I really revel in it and feel liberated.”
De Benedictis got his inspiration for the project after
seeing the Academy-award-winning film “Man on Wire” in 2009, when he asked
himself what in his art is truly extreme and about what risks he was taking in
his music. While the original vision of the project included performing and
filming music at all significant locations in the American west, he narrowed
his focus, noting that the Cascade volcanoes offer a completely panoramic view
at their summits and that ambient music can be played there while still
maintaining a dramatic quality.
At first, he thought he could complete the project in a
couple years, although that notion was “probably one of the silliest things
that has ever passed through the hemispheres of my mind” and that most of the
initial summit attempts failed. The first two successes were reaching the
summits of Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens, where he learned valuable lessons
while getting lost and about the amount of weight he was carrying (not to
mention one time forgetting cords that he needed for recording).
“I learned the hard way, in those early years, that these
mountains demand far more attention and effort and sacrifice,” noted De
Benedictis, a life-long recording artist who has also ventured into filmmaking,
acting and more.
In his past attempts on Mount Hood, De Benedictis had never
made it higher than the Hogsback, finding himself either too weak or too far
behind in the day to make the final push. This past June, he had the strength
to keep going, but quickly discovered that the route to the top would not be
“It was very steep and icy, with no footholds other than
crampon technique to depend on, and nowhere to sit or even rest my calve
muscles, which were now burning,” he wrote in an email to the Mountain Times.
“But rather than panic and cry for help, which I knew wouldn’t do much good, I
decided to take notice of the few climbers who were walking up this thing like
it was a day in the park. A couple of them walked right past me, as though they
were looking for a spot to have a picnic.”
De Benedictis gathered himself, pushed on and reached the
summit in tears.
“To say the experience was cathartic would be an
understatement, it was practically transformative,” he noted.
The conditions at the summit were too windy and cold for a
performance, so De Benedictis set up a little bit down and out of the wind. He
had three pieces of music to play, but he was unable to play everything he
planned and he noted the emotions of the journey to the summit made an impact
on the performance.
His last piece was performed live on Facebook, and then he
packed up for the descent.
De Benedictis took the Old Chute route down, noting it was a
less dramatic climb than the one going up, but added that he didn’t enjoy the
performance and he may consider giving it another attempt.
DeBenedictis has also played at the summit of Mount Whitney,
and he also hopes to reach the top of Mount Shasta this year (with a possible
attempt at the end of last month). He also plans to complete a full-length
documentary on his project in the future.
“I wanted to show how inseparable my art is from my life,”
De Benedictis noted. “I just wanted to show the world how moved and inspired I
myself am to be alive, and in essence this was my way of doing that. This
project was my own primal scream of sorts, a way of standing in front of the
vastness and the abyss and exclaiming to the universe as gracefully and
sentimentally as possible that I was here, and that this was my impression of it.”
For more information about his project, including links to
videos and music samples, visit www.deandebenedictis.com.
By Garth Guibord/MT