Listen to the piece
for alto flute
In Celtic and Norse mythology, selkies are magical beings that can change from seal to human form by shedding their sealskins. Selkie tales often feature a human man stealing and hiding a woman selkie’s sealskin, trapping her in human form, marrying
her, and starting a family. When she finally finds her skin, she is compelled to return to her ocean home, but in so doing, she leaves her children behind.
I grew up near Washington State’s Puget Sound waters, where harbor seals can be spotted in quiet mornings. Their heads bob up in the glassy water and sometimes they would stare at me with large dark eyes before slipping effortlessly under the water
Seal Mother envisions a selkie in her seal form, swimming not too far offshore, watching her children from a distance. Lyrical melodic lines express her love and longing for her children, while undulating motives evoke currents of water and grief. The embellishments are inspired by Irish whistle ornamentation such as cuts and taps. The piece ends with a reinvention of the Scotts ballad The Great Selkie, a tragic folksong about a Selkie father and his son who are killed by humans while in seal form.
Seal Mother was commissioned by and is dedicated with love to Hal Ide and Rose Bishop.
Art by Hal Ide.