Almost a decade ago, I visited the western Arctic region aboard the CCGS Amundsen, an icebreaker and research vessel operated by the Canadian Coast Guard.
The ship and the researchers on board were there to study climate change in the Arctic, but I was part of the “Artist on Board” program. The goal was to provide me with first-hand experience of the northern region while gaining a better understanding of climate change — from both the scientific and cultural perspectives — to inspire the composition of a large-scale symphonic work.
My primary motivation was to create a historical documentation of the Arctic in musical form.
The Arctic identity
Throughout history, the arts have communicated invaluable information of an era to future generations. From Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, art has captured the spirit of the time, reflected the community’s thoughts and helped shape the locale’s cultural identity.
During my limited time in the Arctic, I spent days and nights observing the landscape. From the snow covered lands to the awe-inspiring glaciers, there was much for me to take in and draw from.
In the process, I found myself developing a spiritual connection with the environment. This was a feeling like no other — a sense of peace and calmness that could only be inspired by the land’s angelic beauty, untouched by utilitarian society.
I knew that the music I composed would need to express this new-found spiritual connection I had formed with the land.
An enchanted introduction
The work is written in five movements. For the first movement, I. Prelude – Lamentations, I wanted to open with the sense of wonder and enchantment that I felt when I first arrived in the Arctic. I composed a simple harmonious chorale for the strings to invite the listener into this region of the world.