One island

One Island (electroacoustic music, 1996)

One island grew out of a collaboration with choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh called So many islands. Both works have their roots in Derek Walcott’s poem The Schooner “Flight” with its vivid images of the sea and islands of the Caribbean. The piece doesn’t use Walcott’s story, but paints, in sound, some of the pictures he draws in words.

The music is made from the materials in the poem, so the sound of the sea dominates, both in its natural state, and also in a slightly surreal state where it is “tuned” (using a computer) to some of the pitches which it shares with the vocal sounds. There is also a contrast between recordings made from a distance and others made very close to rock pools as they were filled by the tide.

Other sounds come from the water’s edge reinforcing the idea of an island: footsteps on a beach, seagulls and kicked pebbles and the sounds of dried driftwood being kicked and snapped. And the remaining sounds in the piece come from a voice, recorded and mixed to take on the shapes of the images of the poem. We hear layers of whispering become the “hissing weeds”; swooping voices suggest the wind and hurricanes and at other times, seagulls; the short, distant, sung fragments move like the “tuned” sea sounds and the longer, smoother layered voices take on the shape of the swelling sea.

The singer, though, is never centre stage. We only hear her echo like footprints in the sand….