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Dean De Benedictis
Musician 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 easy.

“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

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