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the sea in darkness callsRachel Anne York
00:00 / 09:58

the sea in darkness calls is a performance piece for four dancers and a 4-channel sound installation in the U.S. Custom House in Portland, ME, yet to be realized due to the global pandemic caused by Covid-19. The sound piece above has been adapted for 2-channel playback. The fragments of song come from the Shaker dance tune "Simple Gifts," written in 1848 by Joseph Brackett, Jr., and "Song to the Seals," written in 1930 by Granville Bantock and Harold Boulton. 

The U.S. Custom House in Portland, ME was built in the late 1800's on fill land which pushed the shore line out in order to extend the railroad. In this monument to humans assigning monetary value to raw materials and goods and claiming dominion, I intended to invoke seamaids singing out for simplicity, freedom, and awe, to seek a rebalance; to allude to sea level rise and the Earth reclaiming its domain. 

The title of the performance is taken from the poem "The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

The tide rises, the tide falls,

The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;

Along the sea-sands damp and brown

The traveller hastens toward the town,

    And the tide rises, the tide falls.


Darkness settles on roofs and walls,

But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;

The little waves, with their soft, white hands,

Efface the footprints in the sands,

    And the tide rises, the tide falls.


The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls

Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;

The day returns, but nevermore

Returns the traveller to the shore,

    And the tide rises, the tide falls.


 — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Simple Gifts

’Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free
’Tis a gift to come 'round where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right

— Joseph Brackett Jr. 

Song to the Seals  [excerpt]

A seamaid sings on yonder reef

The spellbound seal draws near

Her lilt that lures beyond belief

Mortals enchanted hear

Hoi-ran, oi-ran, oi-ran, ee-ro,

Hoi-ran, oi-ran, oi-ran, ee-ro,

Hoi-ran, oi-ran, oi-ran, ee-la-leu-ran,

Hoi-ran, oi-ran, oi-ran, ee-ro

— Lyrics by Harold Boulton,

music by Granville Bantock

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