And the Ocean was Gone


Roydon Tse

Sue Goyette

Performance forces:
sop, mez, ten, bar — large chamber ensemble



“Commissioned for the 2016 Lunenberg Academy of Music Performance Composition workshop (LAMP for short), And the Ocean was Gone is a 9 minute ensemble work with voices that is based on the evocative poem Fifty-Two in Sue Goyette’s award-winning collection of poetry titled “Ocean”. While I do not have the liberty of posting her poetry freely online, that particular poem was written as an ecological protest against the way humans have treated the ocean. The title of my piece comes from the first line of her poem – “We woke one morning, and the ocean was gone.” I was assigned this particular poem to be set to the special ensemble made up from members of Symphony Nova Scotia, and I found setting the poem challenging due to its structure and syntax. In order to set text to music, I had to first come to an emotional understanding of the words, and the words struck me as oscillating between anger, loss, and humor. The poem to me was dramatic in nature, and hence I decided to approach it as if it were a mini libretto for an opera. Since I came to a conclusion that the music be dramatically driven, I had to find the right musical vocabulary to create the narrative that would contain the words. To that end, I used a tetrachord E-B-Bb-F as a foundation for most of the motivic development in the piece. I chose this particular tetrachord because it is also the framework for the opening of Berg’s opera “Lulu”, and I felt that this poem had a soundworld that was similar to the opera. The music is through-composed, and I strived to create a sense of narrative that evolved organically and where one could differentiate the various sections of the piece while drawing connections to the opening motif. The piece is highly energetic and capricious, and was a whole lot of fun to conduct.”