Full Fathom Five
About this work:
The text of this piece is also known as ‘Ariel’s Song’, from Act I, Scene Two of William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. Ariel, an ‘airy spirit’, sings this deceptive song to young Ferdinand, who mistakenly believes his father, Alonso (the King of Naples), has been drowned in the same shipwreck that marooned Ferdinand on a deserted beach.
In addition to wanting to create an overall sense of the cold, dark depths of the ocean, I also tried to represent the number ‘5’. In addition to being scored for 5 voice parts, the song has harmonic and melodic 5ths sprinkled throughout, and is organized into 5 thematic parts. After a short introduction, which hints of a slow and steady descent into the depths, comes the first ‘section’. This should be taken at face value; it represents Ariel’s revelation of Alonso’s apparent drowning. (This theme returns in the fourth section, augmented by a Soprano solo representing Ferdinand’s lament.) The second section is the transfiguration ‘into something rich and strange’, which ends with the sea-nymphs ringing their death knell. The third and fifth sections expand on the tolling bell idea. Here, the ‘ding-dong’s are structured to suggest an eerie and fluid undersea funeral procession, augmented by Ariel’s mock lament (‘fa la la’s).
Year composed: 2001
Ensemble type: Chorus, with or without Solo Voices:Chorus, Unaccompanied
Instrumentation: ,2 S soloist(s), 1 SS, 1 A, 1 T, 1 BB