The Island (Symphony No.4)

for orchestra

Susannah Self

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Composer Susannah Self
Year of Composition rev. 2021
Duration ca.28'
Instrumentation Orchestra
Forces 2Fl, 2Ob, 2Cl, 2Bsn, 2Hn, 2Tpt, 2Tbn, Timp, 3Perc, Hp, Pf, Strings
Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-ss1ti1

Notes

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I composed The Island when I was gifted an artist retreat on the island of Skyros by Christine Schulz, who runs The Skyros Centre where I teach singing and perform my music every summer. The island stands alone in the middle of the Aegean Sea. It is off the beaten track with minimal tourism so that you fly into a military base rather than a commercial airport. The main compound of the Skyros centre is situated in the pine-wooded bay at Atsitsa. Here variegated volcanic rocks fold directly into the into the sea leaving only a few modest pebbled bays for quiet reflection. Caves which you can only approach from the sea by kayak are caked in green lava. It is easy to imagine a dragon or two being in residence. The island feels wild with its infusion of aromatic sage and dominating strong winds. The cicadas pulsate intoxicating chants by day while at night the small brown Scops owls hoot gentle calls and responses. These audio textures are punctuated with pentatonic goat bells, distant church bells and frisky donkey brays. Like Shakespeare’s island, Skyros is full of sounds that give delight and hurt not. Nevertheless, there is melancholy here too. The first time I visited my father had just died suddenly. Also, the poet Rupert Brooke is buried on the south end of the island after he died of sepsis en route to Gallipoli in the First World war. There are numerous tales of piracy, and Achilles hid in Skyros dressed as a woman before he was discovered. The idea behind the work is to symbolically represent an artist’s life as an island in the sense that each of us is ultimately alone with our vocation. The artist is literally washed ashore in the opening storm which provides a metaphor for the necessary introspection that an artist finds him/herself confronted with. The work is not a personal statement but universal to the issues of every artist’s inner journey.