Source to Sea: A Musical Journey Around the World.

This month we took part in a musical workshop, From Source to Sea: A Musical Journey Around the World. The workshop took place in Durness, and was attended by North West Sutherland Primary Schools. It was organised by Durness resident Kajta Riek, a linguist specialising in the areas of music, dance and theatre and lead by Sequoia (Figure 1), an award-winning string duo, dedicated to exploring the natural world through music. There were three workshops from Plastic@Bay, The Geopark (Figure 6) and artist Nicola Poole (Figure 7).

Figure 1: Sequoia and North West Sutherland Primary Schools composing music.

Sequoia composed four songs with the school children based on plastic objects found by Plastic@Bay on the shores of Durness; including songs about a toffee crisp packet floating out to sea, lobster tags from U.S.A. (Figure 2) and, my favourite, a song about a ‘betadine bottle’ from Indonesia, using a percussion-based tradition Indonesia style of music called Gamelan.

Figure 2: Lyrics to a song written and composed by Sequoia and West Sutherland Primary Schools children about lobster tags from Maine, U.S.A.

Plastic@Bay helped the children understand about ocean currents and how different plastic have different properties using simple density tests. First we allowed the children to explore our museum of objects (Figure 3) washed ashore on NW Scotland. Our museum is filled with strange and usual objects from all over the world such as; a sea bean from the tropics, a radio transmitter from a weather balloon, a water bottle from Korea, an IV saline bag from Ukraine, lobster tags from Maine, USA and Newfoundland and more. We let the children identify items from other countries, place them on a world map and trace their journey to NW Scotland using arrow post-its (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Museum of unusual objects washed a shore on Balnakeil Beach, Durness.
Figure 4: Joan from Plastic@Bay mapping the journey that objects from far off lands make through the oceans before washing up on the shores of NW Scotland.

Next we spoke about how plastic polymers are made. We distributed simple molecular units ( 1 carbon and 2 hydrogen) and let the children stick them together to form a polymer. Then we discussed how when these molecular units change they alter the properties of the plastic (Figure 5). It explain this we preformed simple density test in water and vegetable oil. Using a water bottle as an example, we could demonstrate that the polymer in the bottle (PET – polyethylene terephthalate) sinks in water, while the cap (HDPE – High Density Polyethylene) floats. We are not sure if the younger kids got the concepts but they loved sticking the arrows on the maps and dipping plastic in water and trying to predict if it would float or sink!

Figure 5: Polyethylene molecule and density test apparatus.

Kajta Riek, the organiser of the event is a linguist specialising in the areas of music, dance and theatre, now based in Durness. Kajta was raised in a rural town in Germany, with little cultural event. Katja said without the good will of musicians and artists touring and bring cultural event to her home village, she would not of been exposed to the music and artists that inspired her to follow her career path. She wanted to bring this gift to the children of North West Sutherland primary Schools, in the hopes that some pupils might be inspired too.

Figure 6: Pete and Laura from the Geopark explore the journey of rock from mountain to grains of sand on the beach.
Figure 7: Crazy Crustaceans made by NW Sutherland Primary School Pupils, directed by artist Nicola Poole.

Figure 8: Fun Times at Source to Sea, from right to left; pupils making crazy crustaceans at Ms. Poole’s workshop, magical music being made by Sequoia and West Sutherland Primary Schools, tasty geological treats with the Geopark, and pupils modelling some funky eyewear that washed up on the beach.