Since returning to Hawaiʻi in late 2014, much of my music has been inspired by Polynesian voyaging and the canoe Hōkuleʻa. When asked to compose a work for Music in the American Wild, I decided to continue to compose music about the oceans. When I began to know master navigator Nainoa Thompson, he would talk about his experience voyaging aboard Hōkuleʻa and he would describe a location northeast of the Hawaiian islands called the Pacific Garbage Patch. Due to currents, much of the trash and pollutants that makes its way to the Pacific Ocean ends up and becomes trapped in this location. The size of the patch is about twice the size of Texas and getting larger. The Hawaiian islands could fit into this patch 10 times over with room to spare. Particuarly harmful is plastic and its long breakdown period which leads to microplastics that end up in the digestive tracts of marine life. These plastics have the danger of ending up in humans and so the phrase E Mālama I Ke Kai, "to care and protect the ocean," very much resonated with me as the theme for this new piece.
Life began in the sea according to the Kumulipo, the ancient Hawaiian creation myth. Humanity is seen as being tied to all living things, plants, animals, and the environment. The narrative of the work explores themes of the past, present and future for the marine world. Once teaming with creatures of aquatic life, the ocean environment is now polluted and life endangered. Essentially, this work describes a day in the life of a Humujumnukunukuāpuaʻa (Hawaiʻi State Fish).
The work is scored for a septet of mixed instruments. While there is no connection to traditional Hawaiian music, I set the phrase “E Mālama I Ke Kai,” into several melodic phrases that could be used as a refrain. I then removed the words so the instruments could take the melody, leaving a bounty of mantra-like motives from which to work. The work is in three sections beginning with a festive music depicting a lively ocean environment teeming with life. The second moves towards a more atmospheric and poignant music depicting a threatened marine environment with the energy of life systematically erased. The final section sees the rehabilitation of the marine world with the music of the beginning returning and the phase refrain repeated in a call to all humanity to care, protect the oceans and protect our aquatic friends!
February 7, 2020; Music in the American Wild, Honolulu, HI, USA
February 11, 2020; Music in the American Wild, Hawaiʻi Volcano National Park (2 Performances)
February 15, 2020; Music in the American Wild, Honolulu, HI, USA (Lyons Arboretum)
E MĀLAMA I KE KAI
Flute, Clarinet, Horn,
Viola, Violin, Cello &
Music in the American Wild
Janurary 4, 2020
Music in the American Wild
Prairie Village, Kansas