Behind the Music – Songs from the Deep

Some initial sketches for the orchestral work I was commissioned to write by the Oregon Mozart Players.

The piece takes as its starting inspiration an experience I had diving with humpback whales.

Under the surface was an immersive sound world filled with noise – of flowing water, of feeding fish, of air and breath and movement and texture. The songs of the humpbacks would emerge out of this noise, clearing out into moments of lyrical beauty before fading, submerging, dispersing away back into the shimmering texture.

whale song and music, orchestra

The music includes spatial and immersive sound elements that surround the audience with the feeling of rapidly moving water; melodies using Indian ornamentation and timbres to evoke the organic, fluid nature of whale song; and aleatory, extended techniques and wild changes of color to conjure the hypnotic sound of whales. Harmonies are static with long drones but constantly, rapidly, aggressively shifting colors to create a duality of suspension and motion.

whale song spectrogram

…a shifting noise floor…

whale song and music

…song-like melodies emerging out of noise/shimmer…

whale song and music

…movement – aleatory, non-synchronized ord – sul pont – ord, <> dynamics…

The work was premiered by conductor Kelly Kuo and the OMP musicians in April 2022. Audio can be requested by emailing me at, a perusal score is available here: