Sounding the Deep: Recital Version and Vocal Score

Recital Version and Vocal Score

Sounding the Deep
was commissioned in March 2011 by the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra as a work for orchestra and bass voice for performance in March 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad celebrations in the city of Hull. The composition tells the story of such exploration in the words of a remarkable zoologist and explorer, the American William Beebe (1877 – 1962), the father of ocean ecology and the first man to descend ‘a half mile down’.

Beebe (pronounced Bee – be) was the David Attenborough of his day, a remarkable scientist, writer, and communicator. Friend of movie stars and presidents, he was a best-selling author and ‘must-hear’ lecturer.

Indeed, in Sounding the Deep, Beebe is portrayed by the bass soloist giving one of his celebrated lectures – probably a first for a musical composition.

The libretto, taken entirely from Beebe’s book Half Mile Down, traces Beebe’s
fascination from early in his career with the secrets of the ocean depths. However, it wasn’t until Beebe was in his forties that he made his first ‘helmet dives’ off the Galápogos Islands becoming the first scientist to photograph and investigate the world of the coral reef. It was shortly after these initial studies that he began to consider how man might investigate the deep ocean beyond the limit of unaided human
capability. With President Roosevelt’s personal support and the young and wealthy engineer Otis Barton he designed and built a ‘bathysphere’ to go to depths beyond man’s previous experience.

Beebe’s story of this personal journey into the unknown is told in wonderfully poetic, indeed rhapsodic language. His writing is testament to an age when the word rather than the image was the most effective medium of communication. In the intense darkness of the undersea world technology simply didn’t allow Beebe to ‘show’ his discoveries through photography.


Study score [pdf]

Libretto [pdf]