Derby-based composer Richard J Birkin has composed an original soundtrack to accompany six-part spoken word essay A Lonely Isle, which focuses on the island of Rockall.
Following on from 2016 album Vigils, and soundtracks including for the Radio 4 adaptation of Reservoir 13, Birkin has created for A Lonely Isle sparse compositions which give the sense of the isolation and the wilderness of Rockall. Across six parts A Lonely Isle draws on accounts from the last 200 years to tell the story of the remote island, ‘a minute speck in a gigantic seam, an outpost in the Atlantic Island.
From its discovery in 1811 when a landing party from HMS Endymion scrambled up its face, to the political and industrial reasons why the uninhabited outpost has been claimed by Britain the six parts check in at around two minutes each and were written and narrated by Matthew Sherat with additional voice from Matt Addis, with the series produced and directed by Ann Scantlebury.
Birkin’s score sits subtly beneath the spoken word essay, unobtrusive by undeniably there – just like the island itself. Piano and strings sparsely bring together melodies draw out the anecdotes which reflect the hold Rockall has had on many lives, and the witness it has stood to many deaths too. Often defined by the space the seas around it the music anchors these anecdotes to the rock they speak of, echoing the vastness of the ocean and both the safety and the danger offered by the small speck of land.
“At Rockall many have died, sadly and hardly, in the cruel sea; near it many good, tough men work and find us hard-earned food; upon Rockall a few have stood or clung, with some difficulty and sometimes in danger; from it a few little scientific secrets have been wrested by the lucky ones. Rockall must still have many secrets, and I hope that those who come to it, as come they must to-morrow, or the next day, will be as lucky as I.”
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