Oil sheen on river surface

by Ville Aslak Raasakka

for piano

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Ville Aslak Raasakka

Oil sheen on river surface

Universal Edition


The Newtown Creek is a tributary of the East River, running in Brooklyn, New York City. On the banks of this river, oil refineries have been active since the 19th century. Petroleum and oil residues had been spilling and seeping into the ground for decades, and in 1978 a large plume of oil was found flowing in the river. The oil spill was located in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn.

Remediation and recovery of the river have started since, but with an alarmingly slow rate. The Greenpoint oil spill is considered to be the largest oil spill in US history, with a total spillage estimation of 30 million US gallons. The Newtown Creek was designated as a Superfund site in 2010, but the cleanup process has been delayed numerous times.

This composition is commissioned by pianist Yumi Suehiro of the Mise-en Ensemble. The ensemble works and rehearses in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn. I wanted to have the environmental history and surroundings of this group of musicians as the subject matter of this composition.

I started the composition process by making a kind of ’body of water’. This body is a single chord, of which I made around 100 microvariations, with changes in density, warmth and distribution. The music ripples, swirls and flows between these microvariations, moving, but always remaining in the same ’body’. The music starts with a muddled, dark quality, as it struggles towards a more filtered, cleaner quality, giving glimpses of remediation and healing towards the end.




Works for Solo Instrument


Yumi Suehiro, piano, May 18, 2023, New York

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Commissioned by Yumi Suehiro

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