Sounding the Deep is an extraordinary contemporary music project that culminated in a special performance on March 17, 2012 opening Hull’s Cultural Olympiad. Inspired by the history of the exploration of the ocean depths, it also celebrated the 10th anniversary of Hull’s landmark submarium, The Deep.
The Hull Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the most respected voluntary orchestras in the UK, has teamed up with composer, Nigel Morgan and librettist Phil Legard who together have created Sounding the Deep: a new 20 minute piece for full symphony orchestra and bass voice.
Taking the deep oceans as their overall theme, Nigel and Phil discovered the story of the ocean descents made by the remarkable explorer and zoologist William Beebe (pronounced ‘Bee – bee’) in the 1930s. The David Attenborough of his day, friend of presidents and movie stars, Beebe was a best-selling author and lecturer. His inspirational book Half Mile Down describes his record-breaking descents off Nonesuch Island in the Bermudas.
Phil has fashioned a libretto from Beebe’s writing including part of the transcript of his record-breaking descent broadcast live on national radio. Descents and ascents of melody and harmony are found in all the music featured in and around Sounding the Deep. This simple idea came about from the composer setting of a poem by Robert Frances, an American contemporary of William Beebe. Deep Sea Diver was the first of three ‘deep’ songs for bass voice and piano by Nigel Morgan composed in March 2011.
The première of this piece was accompanied by six Shoals – shorter complementary pieces to be performed by student ensembles from Hull, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. In an unusual and innovative approach to new music for young performers the sound world of the deep oceans will be combined with instrumental and electroacoustic sounds through digital technology to create a new experience for performers and audience.