Beach Crossings – Pacific Footprints (Audio)

Feb 21, 2023
Created by Mike Cooper (2005). Introduced by Tyler Maxin.

Beach Crossings - Pacific Footprints is an hour-long radio play by the English guitarist Mike Cooper, originally commissioned by producer Pino Saulo for Italy’s RAI3 Radio in 2005. Described by the artist as a “meditation in words and music on European presence and colonization in the Pacific,” the piece assembles a large group of local musical improvisers—among them the composer Alvin Curran and the Māori instrumentalist Richard Nunns—guided and conducted by Cooper. The music is interspersed with narrations that trace the trajectory of oceanic conquest, from the HMS Dolphin’s 1766 landing in Tahiti to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima nearly 180 years later.

Central among the work’s motifs is the book Beach Crossings, a history of the Marquesas Islands by the Australian historian Greg Dening that Cooper had picked up at a bookstore by chance. It collides with other appropriated texts and songs, including music writing by David Toop and Steven Feld, political essays and slogans, the kroncong tune “Bengawan Solo,” and Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” Cooper arranged the text in English and translated it to Italian for this recording.

The unique blend of inputs and sensibilities and the spontaneous dynamics of the group improvisation results in a work that is at once anarchic and harmonious, cerebral and visceral, disturbing and hopeful. Since 2005, Cooper has adapted this work for Portuguese, Australian, and American radio stations (most recently, with an English-language remix on the WFMU program The Stork Club), and performed a live variation, sometimes accompanied by his Super-8 film Planet Pacific. - Introduced by Wave Farm Radio Art Fellow 2022-2023, Tyler Maxin