Katherine Wren and Alex South were brought together by a shared fascination with the marine environment and those human and nonhuman beings who dwell in and around it. Katherine's ‘Nordic Viola’ project has explored how the sea has marked the musical cultures of peoples all around the North Atlantic, whilst Alex is currently doing doctoral research into humpback whale song, a rich cultural phenomenon in its own right.
During lockdown, these musicians worked remotely with poet Lesley Harrison, responding to her polyphonic and sensuous evocation of northern coastlines and travellers over and under the ocean surface.
In CETACEA the calls of pilot whales twist ‘ropes of song’ from viola and clarinet lines; In the black holes of the ocean combines the rhythms of the tides, of the body, of human speech.
The sea continues to be the focus of this programme in solo pieces for viola and bass clarinet.
Karen Power’s Sonic Cradle was inspired by a residency in Svalbard and integrates the live performer with sounds of the sea ice and water recorded on location as well as images from Svalbard, resulting in an immersive experience for the audience. Karen calls it a guided conversation between the viola and a composed Arctic landscape.
Oliver Searle’s From the Coast, written for Alex, investigates the effects of human intervention on recorded sound, reflecting our interactions with the wider world. The sounds in question were recorded by Alex in a sea cave in Fife during a collaboration with researchers from the University of St Andrews; the resulting piece also draws on Oliver’s childhood memories from time spent living on the coast.