I started writing this work back in February without ever expecting a complete symphony. Like the island itself, the music just grew and grew.
At just over 40 minutes long, I don't expect many of our contributors will have the time to visit the whole piece, but for those that do, please enjoy. If you feel there is any merit to the work, please let me know. It's a relief to have finished it at last.
The work forms a large-scale tone poem offering the listener an acoustic exploration of the geographical and cultural history of the volcanic island of Lanzarote, situated nearly 80 miles off the north coast of Africa. It is the fourth largest of the Canary Islands, emerging from the Atlantic Ocean about 15 million years ago after the breakup of the African and the American continental plates.
Each movement explores an event or period in time and hopes to capture the violence of the land, contrasted with the harmonious existence of modern times on the island.
The word Timanfaya is now synonymous with the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, an expansive landscape of outstanding beauty and desolation. During six years in the 18th Century, 1730 to 1736, more than thirty volcanoes violently exploded, spilling fire, smoke and huge masses of magma onto the surrounding landscape, burying entire villages. Although preparation ensure there were no casualties, almost a quarter of the island became a sea of solidified lava, multicoloured volcanic rocks and copper-coloured sand, with wide areas covered with thick layers of lapilli (coarse ash). For the time being, the area is quite safe, though underneath the surface it is still bubbling.
I - Nacimiento de la tierra Birth of the Land
Out of a curious ocean, fire rages below. Violent interludes follow the burning rock as it forces its way upwards to form a new and untamed land.
II - Jardín de las Hespérides Garden of the Hespérides
In Greek mythology, the Hespérides were a group of nymphs who were guardians, with the aid of a watchful dragon, of a tree of golden apples in a garden located beyond the Atlas Mountains at the western border of Oceanus, the river encircling the world The long, slow cooling process of a newly formed oceanic island may have been the perfect location for such a garden, particularly the earthly warmth available to any vigilant dragon watching nearby.
III - Furioso Fury
In the first half of the 1700’s the islands were again torn open. Don Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo, the priest of Yaiza, documented the visibly changing landscape and the destruction of the villages and farms which lay in the way of the lava flows. He, along with his parishioners, witnessed the creation of mountains as the rocks of hell reached for the heavens.
IV - Conquista, fuego y armonía Conquest, fire and harmony
The island has a long history of settlement, peace and conquest. The perpetual cycle of humanities struggle to maintain unchallenged borders can still visit a land surrounded by ocean. Today, it is peaceful… until El Diablo comes home.
Graeme Helliwell (October 2018)