Round the Bay for mezzo soprano, flute, cello and percussion (2014)

ABC Podcast of Round the Bay

Round the bay sample score pages

The brief for this project was to select a text and to compose music that in some way responded to one of a range of ideas associated with the word ‘halcyon’. I responded to the idea of “the ocean and its moods” and also “tranquillity”.

I based this piece on a poem by Judith Beveridge. For me, her text evokes the image of a bay that reverberates with echoes of the past, including sounds made by fishermen and their boats. It incorporates images of the natural landscape too, including rockpools, seagulls, and ocean spray. Rather than setting the complete text, I abstracted key words and phrases to construct a drifting, haunting atmosphere. The mezzo soprano’s line emerges gradually and proceeds to form part of a blended, woven texture.

The opening is characterised by relative stasis. Towards the centre of the piece there is an increase in textural density and rhythmic activity. The vocal line also mobilises in terms of melodic movement. The closing section features slowly ascending scale patterns and imitation between the parts.

There Is a Haunting Music Round the Bay

by Judith Beveridge

There is a haunting music round the bay —

I hear it in the wind that howls in the lanyard

ropes the sailor reeves through the dead-eyes.

I hear it as he clangs a deck-hand’s awl

and chants back to shore with a coracle’s catch.

I hear it in the nets that drag over the decks

and in the sinkers that roll across piers

with the periwinkles washed from their rockpools,

and as a deckie bellows a flagon song into the hole

of evening. I hear it as spray is hissed

through blowholes in towering jets

and when I put a shell to my ear and the sea

discharges a longshoreman’s song of the sun

turning in the awl-working cry of the gull;

when it enters the circlets of waves

and the eyelets of running threads the men

keep close and slide through their fingers.

There is a haunting music round the bay —

 

it enters the string-work of yachtsmen who sing

about leaving for the islands; it enters

the voices left in the strings of boxes echoing

on the windy slopes and in the pines that sway

and disperse their needles on the Sunday streets.

I hear it in the hum and turn of the wind

on the edge of water where oarsmen make round

music of their muscles and net-makers work

with their eyeleteers. I hear it in the seapools

where infusorians wave their delicate hairs.

And as an old deckie dashes his flagon against

the rocks and distributes the glass scales

of the yachts that float out with the tide, and

a child with driftwood blows into the wind —

there is a haunting music round the bay.

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