Whirl is a new composition, for marimba and vibraphone with live electronics, written for Delia Stevens in celebration of World Oceans Day 2021.

Having composed pieces for World Oceans Day for the last three years, on a range of themes, this piece took an unusual inspiration in the plastic pollution in Greater Manchester’s River Tame. It’s a river I know well, regularly walking in the woods through which it passes, and it having been integral to a previous composition project Crossing (which you can read about by following this Crossing link). The river theme also tied in with my joining the Million Mile Beach Clean organised by Surfers Against Sewage, which raises awareness of the effect of river pollution on the sea.

At various points along the bank of the Tame, groups of whirls are produced, trapping floating plastic rubbish. The contrast between the whirling of the water and the stasis of the suspended plastic waste caught my attention and sparked some creative ideas about how this might be translated into musical ideas -the tension between rotating movement and stasis; as well as the opposition between the dynamism and fluidity of the water and the inertia of the rubbish, which I also took as a metaphor for the present human attitude to the natural world.

Delia and I will make a recording of Whirl in the next few days which we’ll share online on World Oceans Day, June 8th.

For now, the shots here outline the transformation of the musical ideas starting from volatile playing on a single note in the marimba through a progressive twisting of the melodic line into whirl-influenced patterns which further develop into a new kind of sustained sound, higher in register and more insistent, captured in the live electronics.

At this point of suspension, the vibraphone is used, transformed in timbre by the electronics, playing spaced-out chords. These are steadily broken down to become whirl-influenced melodies, finally developing into a version of the reiterated note, again played with volatility.

I’ll include sound examples to go with these these score images once we have made the recording, and will blog again on June 8th to share the music. You can find out about the superb Delia Stevens on this Delia Stevens link, and about World Oceans Day here, and the Million Mile Beach Clean here. See you soon!

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