Over the Whale's Acre
Over the Whale’s Acre is a concert fanfare for brass and percussion, and takes its title from a line in “The Seafarer,” an ancient Anglo-Saxon poem. “The Seafarer” was probably written sometime in the late 8th century and translated into modern English by Ezra Pound in 1930. The narrator vividly describes the hardships of life on the sea:
My feet were by frost benumbed.
Chill its chains are; chafing sighs
Hew my heart round and hunger begot
Mere-weary mood. Lest man know not
That he on dry land loveliest liveth,
List how I, care-wretched, on ice-cold sea,
Weathered the winter, wretched outcast
Deprived of my kinsmen;
Hung with hard ice-flakes, where hail-scur flew,
There I heard naught save the harsh sea…”
And yet maintains an almost contemptuous attitude toward those who choose to live otherwise:
“…He hath not heart for harping, nor in ring-having
Nor winsomeness to wife, nor world’s delight
Nor any whit else save the wave’s slash,
Yet longing comes upon him to fare forth on the water…”
“…Burgher knows not --
He the prosperous man -- what some perform
Where wandering them widest draweth.
So that but now my heart burst from my breast-lock,
My mood ’mid the mere-flood,
Over the whale’s acre, would wander wide…”
The fanfare, like the poem, is meant to portray a snapshot of life on the ancient sea, and is constructed as a sort of tone-poem in miniature, evocative rather than strictly programmatic. I use percussion to suggest rolling waves and sudden storms, and brass to represent a range of characteristics from excitement to trepidation, and ultimately to heroism. The piece received its premiere at the 2014 Midwest Clinic in Chicago, IL, and was recently featured in this US Navy video honoring sailors and their sacrifices.