Music For Writers: The Tidal Grace In Paola Prestini’s ‘Oceanic Verses’

Image - iStockphoto: Panareo Fotografia
Image – iStockphoto: Panareo Fotografia

Mapping Her Internal Geography

This idea of disparate energies colliding is very much a part of everything I do. I’m interested in energies and styles that don’t necessarily go together and weaving them into a tapestry that to me makes sense.

You can hear the singular beauty of Paola Prestini’s weave — and waves — in the newly released recording of her Oceanic Verses.

Thanks to New York Public Radio’s Q2 Music — which has made Oceanic Versesits current Album of the Week — you can listen to the CD free here:

“How do we connect?” she asks during our interview. “How do we find our roots?”

This is the search for a personal worldview that fascinates Prestini, the lifelong expedition from place to place and person to person and event to event, each shaping and changing and contouring a personality, a group, a culture, a nation. To synthesize these things is the challenge — on the micro-level of a single citizen’s understanding and on the macro level of a “fading civilization’s” influence as it evaporates like a mist on the Mediterranean.

“There are parts of the theme I’m interested in, in each of these characters” in Oceanic Verses,” she tells me, talking of her work’s four main characters: an archeological scholar (sung by Helga Davis); a sailor (Claudio Prima); a soldier (Christopher Burchett); a peasant (Hila Plitmann).

Paola Prestini
Paola Prestini

Onstage — and the work has been on its feet in four different incarnations over the years — the composition is wrapped in a triptych film by Ali Hossaini, and the VIA Records release of the work comes with a DVD so you can see the luminous pitch of his visuals behind the company.

A large-cast work when the chorus and instrumental forces are factored in — in this recording, the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and the orchestra Decoda under Julian Wachner’s direction (he’s one of Q2 Music’s “Trailblazing Aritsts of 2014″) — Oceanic Verses has an unmistakable scale, a scope of intent that gets a muscular arm around your imagination as soon as the vocalists enter in the opening sequence, “Oceanic Verses 1.”

Do you know Bedřich Smetana’s The Moldau that evokes the great river of Prague? You’ll hear something wonderfully like its opening here, as Prestini mingles rivulets of woodwind song together, rushing toward the widening sea of choral cadences that open the work. And even her chorus is a collective character here: she describes her choir as “the Mediterranean and all that float upon it.”

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There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

Writing on the Ether: Music For Writers: The Tidal Grace In Paola Prestini’s ‘Oceanic Verses’

Originally published by Thought Catalog at



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