Meltwater (2009-2011) was written jointly for Finchley Chamber Choir and Finchley Chamber Orchestra, as part of the 2009-2010 Adopt a Composer scheme, with the world premiere in 2011.
I began the piece during my exchange trip to National Taiwan University, Taipei, and finished it on my return to the UK, variously finishing sections in Mwnt, Southampton and London.
Poet and naturist David Hawkins wrote the ambitious text, which I adapted for use in setting to the music. Preparing the text was in itself quite a journey of discovery for both of us.
The collaboration with Finchley Chamber Choir and Orchestra was one of the great early challenges of my career, and one of the most rewarding collaborations I’ve experienced– precisely because of the span of time it encompassed, and the way my relationship with the groups changed as we developed a mutual trust and enthusiasm for the piece.
On the bandcamp album, I’ve uploaded the recording of Finchley Chamber Orchestra long-standing member, and “amateur” (but very professional) sound recordist Jeremy Cook. After Jeremy’s full recording, I’ve included various “extras”, including the BBC Radio 3 Adopt-a-Composer broadcast:
Meltwater- full text
i. Nature’s Treasury
(Speakers) Almost none of us remember the hedgerows, how they used to be.
Almost none of us consider the great coral reefs, how they enthralled the sea.
(Choir) Little kern, golden trout, tarpan, hawksbill sea-turtle, running buffalo clover, fat pocketbook pearly mussel, white sedge, littoraria flammea, Formosan clouded leopard, Strohbeen’s Parnassian:
we never got to see!
(Solos) We never got to see the shasta salamander.
(Choir) Delhi sands flower-loving-fly, sulu bleeding heart, geysers’ panicum, ash meadows sunray, Indian knob mountain balm, Western-fringed prairie orchid, Eastern-fringed prairie orchid: we never got to see!
(Solos) We never got to see the oblivious tiger beetle.
(Choir) We never got to see the golden cheeked warbler, the shasta salamander, we never got to see the…
Stuffed, pinned to a board, artist’s impressions.
ii. Then Come The Gases
(Soprano Solo/ Clathrates! Methane! Earth’s entrails uncaged.
Choir) Very angry sea.
(Solo tenor/alto) Feedback loop looping.
(Speakers) Temperature rises cause trapped gases to escape, causing temperature rises, causing trapped gases to escape, causing temperature rises…
iii. A City
(Choir alone) A city, propped against endless night.
(Speaker) Are you sitting on my fragment of ice?
(Choir) A nightmare aurora, breaking up.
(Speaker) A city on an iceberg’s rough edge.
(Choir) An endless nightmare of a city, with the lights left on, with the fridge left open, listing…
(Speaker) listing on its side, as the waters rise.
iv. Amazing Amazon; Interlude
(Choir) Meanwhile, in the Amazon… amazing Amazon!
In your mind a brightly coloured bird, lunging at fruit:
meanwhile in the Amazon, our lungs blown up, keeled over, cut down:
an endless realm of plenty, we understand so poorly: our lung capacity.
(Speaker) I heard a siren, but had no idea why, or where it was going.
(Choir) Confusion, and terror, and smoke, and noise.
(Soprano solo) In the chaos, in the fragmenting world, we have no frame of judgement, lost in melting icelands.
(Speakers) Lucidity, seen so clearly, as the icy eye turns to water, then to gas;
lucidity, as the blue turns grey: can we go on? Can we, can we, can we can we can we can…
The project was run by Making Music in partnership with Sound and Music, in association with BBC Radio 3, and funded by the PRS Foundation. During the process of working with the ensemble, I was mentored expertly by Fraser Trainer.