Sea Sparkle (2019)

For Sinfonietta

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Written for the Ludovico Ensemble, Jeffery Means, Music Director

Duration: 6:15

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Performed live by Jeffery Means and the Ludovico Ensemble

Slosberg Recital Hall – Brandeis University, Waltham (MA), April 12, 2019

© 2019 BLACKBURN ARTS (ASCAP)

Program Note

Noctiluca––also known as ‘sea sparkle’––is neither plant nor animal, but a single-celled planktonic organism called a dinoflagellate, which ingests other plankton. With diameters typically of about 0.5mm, dinoflagellates are hard to see with the naked eye. But when they bloom en masse, often due to excess nutrients in the water, they can form a red slime. At night, however, when these tiny organisms are disturbed by movements, such as footsteps or pounding surf, they emit a brilliant blue glow. There is a darker side to bioluminescent blooms that are linked to two environmental problems: they often occur around bays with river mouths, and they’re also more frequent after heavy rainfall. Both suggest pollution and agricultural run-off are leading to a concentration of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen in the water causing populations to explode. According to Australia Geographic, 

Premiere with Jeffery Means and the Ludovico Ensemble (Apr. 2019)–with live projection–in Slosberg Recital Hall, Brandeis University. Photo by Luke Blackburn.

“The spread of sea sparkle is also linked to climate change. Before 1994 they’d rarely been seen around Tasmania. But as waters have warmed, this has become one of the most common places in Australia to see them.” So, while there’s no question these marine equivalents of the aurora borealis are beautiful to behold, there’s a more complicated and worrisome story behind their growing prevalence.

Luke Blackburn (April, 2019)

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