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The Longships

The Longships

Selected Composition

 

Enya, "The Longships"

 

 

Program Notes

 

Enya's second album Watermark, was released on 1988 to astounding worldwide success: in North America alone, the album sold over four million copies. The world, it seems, hungers for what Enya offers in song after song: inspiration and optimism.

 

The Wikipedia article on Watermark states that it is considered "a seminal example of new-age music." After Watermark, Enya went on to win four Grammy Awards for Best New Age Album:
 

Shepherd Moons (1993)
The Memory of Trees (1997)
A Day without Rain (2002)
Amarantine (2007)


 

I have probably listened to "The Longships," one of the songs from Watermark, hundreds of times since 1988; today, hearing it again—I still found it thrilling. It is mostly a wordless song, though there are a few Celtic words in it: Enya sings (in translation): "We are alive, forever and ever."

 

Here is a link to "The Longships":

 

Enya, "The Longships"

 

 

The Sea Stallion

 

In 2007, 61 men and women rowed a reconstruction of a Viking longship from Sweden to Dublin: 1,000 miles. It was the first time in 800 years that such a ship had sailed those waters. The ship, named Sea Stallion, is magnificent.

 

Archaeologists painstakingly reconstructed this ship in an effort to understand how longships functioned, and how the Vikings used them to become masters of the seas. Here is a link to a 2008 BBC program about the Sea Stallion:

 

Viking Voyages


 

This video is as exciting as an adventure movie—more so, really: because it documents actual adventure lived by real people.

 

I first learned about the Sea Stallion in an online course from the University of Southampton: "Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds: Maritime Archaeology." This course is offered through FutureLearn, which provides free, online courses from around the world. Here is a link to this course (and to FutureLearn):

 

Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds: Maritime Archaeology

 

 

Coda

 

In the final scenes of Viking Voyages, the BBC video I recommended above, the Sea Stallion sails up the River Liffey, and into the heart of Dublin. The shores are thronged with thousands of people, and ships of all kinds escort the Sea Stallion as it makes its way (Dublin was founded by the Vikings, and for centuries it was a major Viking stronghold and place to safely overwinter). For me, it was moving to see this vision out of the past—a Viking longship—surrounded by modern ships in celebration. It reminded me of J. W. M. Turner's 1838 masterpiece The Fighting Temeraire (housed in the National Gallery, in London). Turner painted during the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and The Fighting Temeraire is a reaction to what was happening: it shows the magnificent Temeraire, a ship out the past, dignified and beautiful, being towed by an ugly, dirty, modern vessel to its final port, where it will be dismantled (much as was happening across Britain, as the beautiful past was being torn down to make way for the new, industrial world). The Sea Stallion comes to a better end—it is still in use on the seas, and it will be housed in a Swedish museum when the time comes: but the similarities between what you see as the Sea Stallion enters Dublin and Turner's masterpiece are striking. Here is a link to the painting:

 

J. W. M. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire

 

 

 

 

I created "Down to the Sea in Ships," the image above, on my computer in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from Psalm 107:23-24 (KJV): "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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