Musical interlude: Becoming Fukushima


We were very honored that Scottish composer Katrina Gordon agreed to write and record a new piece for the Safecast 10 anniversary livestream.  Katrina is an accomplished contemporary composer with an experimental bent, and as we discussed  Safecast and our data, she asked us to send her a set of data points from different locations over time. From that she selected three locations, and composed a solo piece for each based on the data: Fukushima Daiichi, for flute, performed by Emily Benyon in Amsterdam; Pripyat, for piano, performed by Penny Watson in Glasgow; and Koriyama, Fukushima, for cello, performed by Su-a Lee, in Speyside, Scotland. The performances are marvelous and beautifully produced on video by Belinda Hawes. Katrina’s moving programme note is below.

Composer’s Programme Note by Katrina Gordon

This musical offering has been inspired directly by Safecast data points from three locations, spanning the 10 years since the Fukushima disaster.

The data were respected as “objective truths”: as composer I merely facilitated the telling of their story by translating the numbers into musical tone-rows. Each location was therefore enabled to reveal its own song of “becoming” through time.

I’m very grateful to our three storytellers: Emily on flute, Penny on piano and Su-a on ‘cello. Once the data had passed through my heart and mind to create the written score, these three amazing musicians each rose to the task of allowing the tone-row to flow through their hearts, and so the story of the unfolding of these three locations can be told. As with life, nothing is fixed: everything is interpreted.

I am a “nuclear child”, created entirely as a result of my parents meeting as co-workers at Dounreay Nuclear Power Station in Scotland. I grew up in the loving embrace of that power station community.

My heart broke in 1986 and again in 2011, feeling true compassion and kinship with the communities surrounding Chernobyl and Fukushima. “Becoming Fukushima” is a token offering of respect, compassion and optimism for both of those communities. It reminds us all of our common experience: life itself is always a “managed risk”, wherever we are and whatever we do.