The grey islands: a journey, opus 33
for soprano, clarinet in B flat, guitar, and sound file (or narrator)

Michael Parker
Composition Date: 1986
Duration: 00:30:00
Genre: Solo Voice, With Electronic and Misc. Ensemble, Woodwind(s), Plectral String(s)

Instrumentation:

Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Clarinet
  • 1 x Guitar
  • 1 x Tape
  • 1 x Soprano
Instrumentation Set Number 2:
  • 1 x Clarinet
  • 1 x Guitar
  • 1 x Narrator/Actor
  • 1 x Soprano
Programme Note:
Newfoundland poet John Steffler’s book The Grey Islands is a sequence of prose and lyric verse pieces which tell the story of a man who leaves the mainland behind to spend a summer retreat on a remote and deserted island off the Newfoundland coast. This is a journey of discovery, his finding of place, his placing of self. Throughout the journey, he reflects on the Newfoundlanders he meets (Nels and Cyril) and thinks of his wife Karen and their children left behind in Ontario. For my musical interpretation of The Grey Islands, I chose thirteen pieces, alternating between prose and verse, in the order in which they appear in Steffler’s book. They are arranged in a concentric structure, with

CATALOGUE INFO:

  • Call Number:
  • MV 1912 P242gr
  • Genre:
  • Solo Voice, With Electronic and Misc. Ensemble, Woodwind(s), Plectral String(s)
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • August 6, 2014
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (40 p.)
    40 Pages
    Height: 30 cm
    Width: 23 cm
    Parts page count: 54
    This piece includes a tape part
    2 parts ([54] p.)
    Height: 30 cm
    Width: 23 cm
    This piece includes a tape part
  • Language Information
  • Language of libretto: English
  • Additional Information:
  • Newfoundland poet John Steffler’s book The Grey Islands is a sequence of prose and lyric verse pieces which tell the story of a man who leaves the mainland behind to spend a summer retreat on a remote and deserted island off the Newfoundland coast. This is a journey of discovery, his finding of place, his placing of self. Throughout the journey, he reflects on the Newfoundlanders he meets (Nels and Cyril) and thinks of his wife Karen and their children left behind in Ontario. For my musical interpretation of The Grey Islands, I chose thirteen pieces, alternating between prose and verse, in the order in which they appear in Steffler’s book. They are arranged in a concentric structure, with #7 at the centre and the other pieces emanating out from there in such a way that #6 is parallel to #8, #5 parallel to #9, etc. (see below). This arrangement allows the musical and textual material in these parallel groupings to be contrasted and compared. The verse selections are sung by the Soprano. The prose pieces are spoken by John Steffler and others on a sound file (with the option of having them recited by a poet/actor or the Soprano live on stage). Although this work is firmly rooted in a specific cultural milieu (the Newfoundland that John Steffler and I experienced for the ten years prior to its composition), I believe that the brilliance of John’s text transcends these specifics and creates a moving portrait of every person’s search for his identity. The Grey Islands was commissioned by the Webern Trio of St. John’s, Newfoundland, through a grant from the Canada Council, and is dedicated to them.

    1. the island
    2. grey silk we sway on
    3. I thought I was headed for silence
    4. the unfamiliarity of the sounds of the sea
    5. in this space and solitude
    6. Nels
    7. today a sadness in the light itself
    8. Soul in Salt
    9. what can we do in such elements?
    10. the cemetery
    11. things here flower in death
    12. a strange shaking
    13. a small crack first in the morning's spell

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The grey islands: a journey, opus 33 for soprano, clarinet in B flat, guitar, and sound file (or narrator)
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