The Water Protectors

Research output: Non-textual formComposition


In 2016, I visited Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota, where thousands of Lakota people and their allies camped to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline being built across their ancient burial lands, a pipeline which had already burst, polluting millions of gallons of groundwater. In 2017, I visited Preston New Road, Blackpool, UK, where over a hundred people had been protesting daily for three years against Cuadrilla's fracking operations, operations which had begun to irreversibly pollute adjacent farmlands with radioactive water. I attended and recorded further public climate emergency demonstrations in the USA and UK, transcribing chants, songs and marching rhythms performed by concerned citizens as they demanded a genuine voice in their lives, their health and their future and for their children.

In response to these experiences, concerns, and the public's music-making, I composed The Water Protectors for four dis/assembled saxophones. The work was premiered on November 28th 2019 by Ebonit Saxophone Quartet who reside in watery Amsterdam.

In The Water Protectors, disassembled saxophones produce otherworldly sounds, suggesting voices and instruments increasingly vanishing within indigenous communities. When assembled, they more clearly reference descending modal scales, phrase structures and heterophonic techniques of Lakota songs and dance tunes, as well as chord-cluster group chanting and drumming of spontaneous street music-making.

The saxophonists are required to treat the performing space and music as a ritualistic imperative. Clothing, posture, movement, blocking are controlled to ensure cohesiveness between how music-making looks and sounds. The musicians move about the stage and engage with each other as necessary components to making unique musical sounds.

By genuinely integrating music, dramatic arcs, staging and costume, the experience affords audiences with a deeper appreciation of climate activists and their exuberant public gathering to raise public awareness, hoping to incite the concert public to become climate activists.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherComposers Edition
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2020


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