The Widening Gyre (2009)

for soprano and string orchestra
Poetry by David Raphael Scott

In May 2008, I spent a week on the coast-guard icebreaker Amundsen in the Beaufort Sea as part of the Artists-on-Board Program. I tagged along with a group of scientists from all over the world involved in the University of Manitoba’s Circumpolar Flaw Lead study. Their task was to study the region with a particular emphasis on the melting of the polar icecap; my task was to somehow turn this experience into music.

The time I spent on the Amundsen was wonderfully thought provoking. It allowed me the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the high arctic and contemplate the implications of our human presence. While on board, I was particularly struck by the gradual shift in the quality of light, the distortions of my perception of time and the utter lack of silence. I also thought a great deal about issues of sovereignty, climate change and our place in the use and abuse of natural resources. The text I created for this work explores some of these ideas.

I would like to thank: Vicki Young and the The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra for working so hard to make this project happen; the University of Manitoba, and particularly Dr. David Barber, for putting me on the Amundsen and making me feel like an honoured guest; and the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting the commission financially.

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