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Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Daniel, Omar


The Indomitable Basque is an orchestral tone poem depicting the early activities of the Basque whalers who came to the coast of Labrador during the sixteenth century. The piece specifically focuses on the interactions of an individual, Juan Martínez de Larrume, who overwintered in Red Bay, Labrador, with his crew between 1576 and 1577. The music creates soundscapes which portrays the men sailing, constructing their semi-permanent camp, hunting, and living through a Labrador winter. The piece also features three traditional Basque instruments (the txistu, the alboka, and the txalaparta). Throughout the composition, unique melodies and harmonies were created by incorporating the two main “characters” of the story and representing them as musical motifs: the whaler Larrume; and the Whale the men came to hunt.

The work utilizes both traditional and non-traditional elements in its construction. There are moments throughout with melodies being accompanied by harmonies in a strict time signature, and there are times where the music is free and improvisatory, where it does not use a “traditional concept” of meter or cohesion. The music itself is programmatic, where it tells a story in a linear manner: the men leave the Basque Country to sail to Labrador to work, they arrive and set up camp, they actively hunt a whale, and are unfortunately forced to stay and survive through the frigid winter. Throughout the piece, instruments perform a variety of extended techniques that lend itself to the programmatic aspects of the story: whale-calls, birdsongs, blowing winds, creaking floors, or an active construction site.

Summary for Lay Audience

The Indomitable Basque is a piece of music composed for the symphony orchestra. It depicts the early activities of the Basque whalers who were present in Labrador during the sixteenth century. The music tells the story of a man named Juan Martínez de Larrume who came to Red Bay, Labrador, in 1576, along with his crew to hunt for whales for oil to take back to their European homes. Unfortunately the men were forced to stay in Labrador through the winter of 1577 as their ship became frozen in the harbour due to an early onset of frost. I chose to include three traditional Basque instruments in this piece, and they are the txistu, the alboka, and the txalaparta. The music also depicts two main “characters” to help communicate the story: Larrume himself and the whale they are hunting. The notes chosen to represent these characters are used to construct both melodies (give the characters a “voice”) and harmonies (to define the quality of the sound).

The composition is predominately constructed using familiar methods, such as having recognizable melodies being accompanied by harmonies, all while being organized with a specific tempo and meter. However, there are also times when the music does not follow these familiar conventions and ventures into sounds that are more improvised and freely constructed and/or organized. Presenting the music with both familiarity and spontaneity gives it a sense of comfort and assurance woven with moments of anticipation and the unknown. Instruments are directed at times to create sounds which aid the listener with the immersion into the music’s story. Some of these sounds include whale-calls, birdsongs, blowing winds, creaking wooden floors, and the construction of wooden structures.

Ultimately, this piece aims to depict the story of Larrume and his companions and their adventures in Labrador. The first movement shows them sailing across the ocean, eventually arriving in Labrador with the announcement of the whale sounds. The second movement has the men setting up their camp, welcoming new arrivals, and going on a hunt. The third, and final, movement depicts the men being trapped through the frigid Labrador winter, trapped inside their ship while it is slowly squeezed by the unrelenting sea pack ice.

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