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Freeman, Alex: A Wilderness of Sea 

 

 

Basic information

  • Title: 
    A Wilderness of Sea
  • Duration (in minutes): 
    14
  • Year of composition: 
    2016
  • First performance (year): 
    2016
  • First performance (venue): 
    Temppeliaukio church, Helsinki, Finland
  • First performance (performers): 
    Helsinki Chamber Choir, cond. Nils Schweckendiek
  • Solo Voice(s)/Instrument(s): no
 

Notes

  • Program notes: 

    A Wilderness of Sea draws from three of Shakespeare’s most famous works, emphasizing the common thread among those works that addresses two of the most universal aspects of human existence: water and impermanence. In all of western literature it is doubtful that any single poet more artfully or thoroughly contemplated the ephemeral quality of “our little life”. Indeed, we find this theme pervades his most tragic and most comic works. Shakespeare also understood the smallness of mankind in the face of the nature, as well as very particular aspects of life in and near the sea. His descriptions and metaphors, as they pertain to the aquatic realm, reflect a remarkably refined perception of the natural world and mankind’s place in it. For instance, his description of the state of a drowned sailor in Full Fathom Five has an almost scientific, chemical ring to it. Likewise, his prescient contemplation of “the hungry ocean” ultimately obliterating even the loftiest structures of mankind represent both a gift for nuance on the microscopic level and drama on the broadest imaginable scale. These words, in the very time in which scientists have warned that the ocean may well rise nearly a meter by the end of this century, resonate in a way that Shakespeare could scarcely have imagined. His was an infinite ocean with unlimited power; ours is an ocean whose limits we have finally begun to reach and which renders our civilisation much in the position Shakespeare describes of Titus Andronicus:

    For now I stand as one upon a rock
    Environed with a wilderness of sea,
    Who marks the waxing tide grow wave by wave,
    Expecting ever when some envious surge
    Will in his brinish bowels swallow him.

    Titus Andronicus, Act III, sc. 1

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