Cove Beach (2004)


Piano Version:  State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz Concert Choir directed by Ed Lundergan; Gary Palmieri, piano

Orchestral Version:  SUNY New Paltz Concert Choir, directed by Ed Lundergan; College/Youth Orchestra of the Hudson Valley, directed by Carole Cowan

            Piano Version Orchestra Version
            Beach.mp3  6:25 Beach.mp3  6:15
            Dance.mp3  2:41 Dance.mp3  3:04
            Flight.mp3   4:08 Flight.mp3   4:14

Cove Beach
is a tribute to a stretch of sea coast of the same name in Cape May, New Jersey, where my family has often vacationed. Extending for two miles from the end of Beach Avenue to the lighthouse at Cape May Point, Cove Beach is under the protection of the Nature Conservancy and the State of New Jersey. Undeveloped, save for a few fences protecting the nests of migratory seabirds, the area is a haven for wildlife of all kinds.

The text of Cove Beach is comprised of the full Latin taxonomic names of some of this wildlife.  Each of three musical sections features the interaction of two (and in one case, three) species. In addition, I have designated a nickname to each species, by which it is first announced, and which recurs whenever its theme reappears. Some of these nicknames are portions of the Latin taxonomy (for example, “Aves” for both avian species), others are alternative names given to the species in question (“Coquina” for Donax), and “Humana” is my own terminology for a (female) human.

"On the Beach With the Feathered Coquina" describes a human being (“Humana” - species Homo sapiens) standing in the surf, suddenly aware that she is surrounded by tiny fronds of feathery seaweed (“Bryposis” - sp. Bryopsis plumosa), then discovering further that each piece of seaweed is anchored to a miniature mussel (“Coquina” - sp. Donax variabilis.)

"Dance of the Mole Crab and the Oystercatcher", although styled as a lighthearted “boogie-woogie,” is a dance to the death for the mole crab (“Hippidae” - sp. Emerita talpoidea), a fragile creature resembling a small (~1 ½ “ long) pink pig, which lives as far down in the wet sand as a hand can reach.  The females of this species often carry clusters of bright coral roe in their ‘aprons;’ this is their treasure, and also the key to their demise. The oystercatcher (“Aves” - sp. Haematopus palliatus), a stocky bird about the size of a seagull, stalks jerkily up and down the beach just ahead of the surf, occasionally plunging its long, bright red beak deep into the sand. If it’s lucky (and the mole crab is not), the bird emerges clutching a struggling mole crab. The bird gulps down the tender roe, leaving the crab to die.  The musical murder is easy to discern - rising chords reach a screaming instrumental climax, and the choir asserts that “Aves” has won the day - and a tasty meal.

"Flight: Terns and Dolphins" depicts the flight of the tern (“Aves” - sp. Sterna hirundo) and the leaping exuberance of the bottlenosed dolphin (“Delphinidae” - sp. Tursiops truncatus).  At the conclusion, both creatures soar over one of my favorite places in all the world.

Latin Names of Cape May Creatures

Human:  Eukarya Animalia Chordata Vertebrata Mammalia Primates Anthropoidea hominidiae Homo sapiens

Coquina:  Eukarya Animalia Mollusca Bivalvia Veneroida Tellinacea Danacidae Donax variabilis

Sea Moss:  Eukarya Viridaeplantae Chlorophyta Chlorophyceae Bryopsidales Bryopsidaceae Bryopsis plumosa

Mole CrabEukarya Animalia Arthropoda Crustacea Malacostraca Eumalacostraca Eucarida Decapoda Pleocyemata Onamura Hippoidea Hippidae Emerita talpoidea

Oystercatcher:  Eukarya Animalia Chordata Vertebrata Aves Ciconiiformes Charadriidae Haematopus palliatus

Tern:  Eukarya Animalia Chordata Vertebrata Aves Ciconiiformes Laridae Sterna hirundo

Dolphin:  Eukarya Animalia Chordata Vertebrata Mammalia Cetacea Odontoceti Delphinidae Tursiops truncatus

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