Summer Lake playa in Oregon

If you find yourself walking through the library quad and hear the soft melody of a piano echoing from Community Hall, you may be experiencing a composition by OSU coordinator of contemporary music research and study Dana Reason.

Reason started her journey as a pianist and gradually over time became a composer. In addition to growing up playing piano, she played the trombone and was in her high school choir. She completed a Bachelor of Music at McGill University in her native Canada, a Master of Arts in composition at Mills College in Oakland, California, and a Ph.D. at the University of California San Diego.

Today, she teaches music composition and songwriting at OSU, directs an online minor in popular music studies and has an extensive and highly regarded resume of musical compositions and performances.

This month, in collaboration with scientists and other musicians, Reason brings water to life with her latest composition “She Breathes Water.” The collaborative work is a blend of pre-composed music, live musical adaptations and visual art creations. It is part of the “Desert Reflections: Water Shapes the West” exhibition at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.

Reason says her part in the project involved extensive research. The piece needed to be innovative and based on how water works in the West. After working with ecologists, professors and researchers, she shared and utilized the data she had collected to collaborate with additional musicians.

The group decided to name the three-part piece “She Breathes Water.”

Using the sound of fire and water, Reason composed a pre-recorded piece which will be paired with musical adaptations and live art. The piece will be adapted as it is played live in the museum, reflecting the adaptive processes of nature. The arrangement will show a new way to look at the environment and science as a whole.

Reason says collaboration among artists and musicians on this project was integral because nature itself is collaborative. Collaborators on the project included Andries Fourie, curator-artist; visual artist Ka’ila Farrell-Smith; spoken word artist Jason Graham (a.k.a. MOsley WOtta); the intermedia artist collective Harmonic Laboratory; Bruce Pennycook, a music technologist from the University of Texas Austin; Andrew Myers, visual artist; Jayanthi Joseph, violin; Greg Riegel, ecologist; Beverly Law, OSU professor for global change; forest ecologists Andrew Merschel, Hyojung Kwon and Andrew Merschel; and Paris Myers, an OSU student researcher in bio-engineering and visual arts.

“Too often we see a large gap between the sciences and the arts, when in actuality they can really complement each other,” Reason said. “Using art to explain the sciences can be a beautiful way to inform people of what is happening in the world, and maybe this will be the next step to a full understanding.” She hopes the individuals and families who  experience the live exhibition will realize that nature is everywhere, and there is a true importance to the earth and the water around us.

“Desert Reflections: Water Shapes the West” will exhibited at the High Desert Museum from April 27 through September 29, 2019. For more information about the museum or the exhibit visit:

To learn more about Dana Reason visit:


Story by Danielle Cormier (School of Arts and Communication writing intern)

Photo provided by Dana Reason