teeth of light, tongue of waves

for soprano and bassoon with bowed guitar, viola, cello, and double bass

The sonic architecture and thinking within teeth of light, tongue of waves grew out of the discovery of paleoceanography, which is the study of the history of oceans in the geologic past. For centuries, the ocean has evoked a sense of wonderment and fear as a vast unknown space loaded with notions of the sublime and the exotic. However, in more recent times, global technological and economic shifts have caused new concerns and understandings of the ocean. Today’s oceans reveal more about the consequences of human actions than ever before.

With the use of early Irish poetry combined with prose from Doireann Ní Ghríofa, an Irish poet concerned with today’s world, notions of ancient and modern waters become intertwined in this piece:

‘A muir toirtig tonnmaraigh teindtigi

A toparaig trom-dercaigh toethanaig tidhnaicid toibertaig torannda…


            – author unknown, early Irish Bardic poetry

‘Lush, the ripple of liquid that catches the eye. Lush, it lulls us into itself, as water always does. Night will fall for us, and it will be followed by a new day we will not see.’

            – On Art and Apocalypse, Doireann Ní Ghríófa

These texts become woven sonic objects, evoking a hybrid form of nature being brought into being, the ancient and the modern forming a mouth with which to speak of the ocean, after nature has been banished from it.

Co-Commissioned by Miller Theatre, the LA Phil’s Noon to Midnight Festival, and the International Contemporary Ensemble

Watch a video of the piece, performed by The International Contemporary Ensemble at Miller Theatre, conducted by Steven Schick: 

Look at an excerpt of the score here