The Paper Nautilus

Description: 

soprano, mezzo, 2 pianos, 6 percussion
Duration 70’
First performance Theatre Cryptic, dir. Cathie Boyd
Angela Tunstall, soprano; Alexander Gibson, mezzo
Paragon Ensemble cond. Garry Walker
Tramway, Glasgow November 2

Text of The Paper Nautilus

I

La Science (Marie Curie)

Je suis de ceux qui pensent que la Science a une grande beauté. Un savant dans son laboratoire n'est pas seulement un technicien, c'est aussi un enfant placé en face de phénomènes naturels qui l'impressionnent comme un conte de fées. Nous ne devons pas laisser croire que tout progrès scientifique se réduit à des mécanismes, des machines, des engrenages qui d'ailleurs ont leur beauté propre. Je ne crois pas non plus que dans notre monde l'esprit d'aventure risque de disparaitre. Si je vois autour de moi quelquechose de vital, c'est précisement cet esprit qui parait indéracinable et s'apparente à la curiosité.

 

II

La Reine de la mer (Etel Adnan)

La mer bouge dans nos lèvres

Et s'élève comme murailles dans nos yeux.

Le vent dérange nos cheveux

Pour en faire piques et épines

Le voici comme une paume sur l'échine

Apaisé des eaux

L'éternité court sur la matière fluide

Ni mouvement ni essence

Mais le visage lavé et délavé de la mer.

 

Je suis exposé à la nudité de la lumière

Et abandonnée à la lèvre multiple de la mer

Je suis liquide, élément liquide

La terre ses volcans, ses ravines, sa colère.

Je suis ses torrents et sa vase

Et son limon et son printemps

Liquide, élément liquide,

Je suis la mer et unie à la mer.

Liquide, liquide, élément liquide.

Je suis la mer et la Reine de la mer.

 

III

Ars Photographica (Pope Leo XIII)

Expressa solis spiculo

Nitens imago, quam bene frontis deus,

Vim luminum refers,

Et oris gratiam imagine.

O mira virtus ingeni

Novumque monstrum

Imaginem Naturae Apelles

Apelles Aemulus

Non pulchriorem pingeret

Expressa nolis, expressa solis spiculo Naturae

Expressa, expressa solis quam bene prontis

Novumque monstrum refers

Nitens imago quam bene frontis deus

Vim luminum O mira gratiam

Expressa solis spiculo

Mira virtus ingeni novum

Et oris gratiam

Mira oris gratiam

  

IV

De profundis maris (Vulgate)

quam magnificata sunt opera tua Domine

omnia in sapientia fecisti

impleta est terra possessione tua

 

hoc mare magnum et spatiosum minibus:

illic reptilia quorum non est numerus

animalia pusilla cum magnis.

 

tu dominaris potestatis maris

motum autem fluctuum eius tu mitigas

 

gyrat per meridiem et flectitur ad aquilonem

lustrans universa circuitu pergit spirtitus et in circulos suos regriditur

 

omnia flumina intrant mare et mare non redundant

ad locum unde exeunt flumina revertuntur ut iterum fluant

 

dixit Dominus de Basan convertam convertam de profundis maris

  

V

The sea mysteries (Jackie Kay)

Like an oyster hides its pearl,

The sea hides its wonder world.

 

Like a mermaid flicks her tail,

The sea is real and surreal.

 

Like the heart of the angler fish,

The sea's heart beats in the dead of night,

 

The sonar's echo of lovers dead and lost,

All the lonely people - lost at sea.

 

the haunting music of the deep dark sea.

 

***

 

All around the wide world,

the sea speaks in many tongues.

 

In many skins, the sea repeats its lines.

With wide, tide arms, the sea keeps time.

 

In the great treasure chest below

Are the sea special gifts:

 

Lantern fish, bristlemouths, hatchetfish,

Plankton, krill, shrimps, copepods, squid.

 

Pink eggs, razor sharp teeth, transparent shells.

Triple wart sea devil, common black devil fish.

 

As if the sea imagined its creatures,

dragging the ocean for inspiration,

 

As if the sea drew a rough sketch,

Then coloured them in:

 

Black and red creatures of the dark zone.

Fish that flash, fish that turn themselves inside out.

 

Out of the vivid imagination of the sea,

Crawled the wild and the wonderful,

 

The gulper eel, the vampire squid from hell,

the kind and the savage, the beautiful and the ugly,

 

The saints and the martyrs,

The myths and the workers.

 

Nothing could ever surprise the sea.

The sea is you. The sea is me.

 

***

Like an oyster hides its pearl,

The sea hides its wonder world.

 

Like the heart of the angler fish,

The sea's heart beats in the dead of night,

 

The sonar's echo of lovers dead and lost:

 

the haunting music of the deep dark sea.

 

 

VI

Where there is light (Jackie Kay)

You hold the world's fishing

boats in your large hands.

The nets and the hoops

and the hooks and the loops.

You  offer up your silver fish,

your  secret shells, your stones.

And sometimes you take something back,

a child or a man or a woman.

 

You let a little useless light in,

not very far down,

Where small red plants grow deep

in you, small flames,

And see-through see creatures

sweep through  you,

And occasionally you are lit up

by very fierce colour.

 

Deeper down, deeper down again

Where it is colder

(so much colder, really very cold!)

Where plants don't grow

in you any more.

Down, where you are older,

where there is more pressure,

where things are fiercer, crueller.

 

Down, past the  little

lightness into the dark.

Down, into the deeper dark,

into the colder dark

Down in the depths of despair,

where it seems

nothing could ever get better or fairer

where no one cares who you might have been.

 

Down, now in the complete dark

Where luminous fish swim through you

And large journeys begin in you

Where it all that  matters

Is to see and not be seen.

Where the desire is to be invisible,

For the rocks at the bottom

To hold and caress; you make your bed.

 

You make your big bed.

 

VII

Vertical migration (Jackie Kay)

When the moon's behind clouds

And the light is dim,

You rise up.

When the moon is full

You can't risk being seen,

You go down.

Even the moonlight is dangerous

When the light is up

You hide your face,

Your big eyes.

When the moon has gone

And the sun comes out

You go down

Under the cover of darkness

To the roomy gloom

Where you are at home -

Away from the border.

Every night, this same story

You risk your life

Going up and coming down

Don't come too close to the surface.      

Out of the gloom,

back to the gloom

waiting for the night to come

Every night you go out

Looking for the ones who are looking for you.

Oh, do any of us understand

Even the moonlight is dangerous

What it is like to be you in this fierce land.

Always on the move, always full of fear

Travelling in the dead of night.

For the migrant is never truly safe.

The migrant has to hide her face.

The migrant has to skulk around

Under the cover of darkness

When everybody is sleeping;

When the moon is sleeping,

Behind thick clouds,

You go down.

You go down, down, down.

Nothing ever changes.

Under the cover of darkness

Don't come too close to the surface.

Even the moonlight is dangerous.

 

VIII

The Angler's Song (Jackie Kay)

Down where I am, my love, there is no love.

There is no light, no break of day, no rising sun.

Where I am, I call you in; I open my large mouth.

The only light down here comes from my body.

 

Down where I am is deeper than you imagine.

There is no food, no easy prey, and it is freezing cold.

I sing to make you say my name. My big eyes weep.

This is the world of never ending darkness like pain.

 

Come down. I have been waiting for you a long time.

I wait without appearing to wait.

I see without being seen to see. You know me.

I am big headed. I am hideous. I am ugly.

 

Come down. When I find you, I will bite into your belly.

What you see is what you get with me.

There is no other way. I will become you, let us say.

All that will be left of me will be my breathing.

 

Come down where I am. In and out, out and in.

Down at the very bottom of the deep dark sea.

When I become you, my mouth will stay open.

My open mouth like the river mouth down at the bottom.

 

Come down where I am. I will flash my lights for you.

My large eyes will take you in, contain you.

I make no promises. I offer nothing. Not even light.

Down, deep down in the dark, at the bottom, is my bed.

 

My sea bed, love, where there are no promises of love.

Dark - where there are no promises of light.

Where there is little hope of food;

Where day and night are night and day.

 

My sea bed, I tell no lies, so your heart

will not be broken. I offer nothing.

All you will have is my breathing.

But I will give myself up to you.

 

I will give myself up for you.

 

IX

Where there is no light (Jackie Kay)

Where there is no light

When the pain comes in

 

Deep down below what

Anybody ever believed in

 

Where there are only mouths

Opening and closing

 

Where the head is out of all proportion

To the body

 

Where the kindness has gone

where all there is to do day and night

 

is seek out the black and the red, the red and the black

at the bottom of the sea's dark, cold, bed,

 

at the bottom

of the sea's dark bed.

 

At the bottom of the sea's cold bed

At the bottom of the sea bed.

 

X La Reine de la Mer (2) (Etel Adnan)

Liquide, liquide, élément liquide.

Je suis la mer et la Reine de la mer.

 

Coda (Bible)

Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.