Tsunami is a Japanese word. It literally means “harbour- wave” and refers to the immense tidal waves that are particularly associated with the Pacific Ocean, though history records them as having occurred in most of the world’s seas at some time.

They are usually caused by seismic activity, the initial disturbance triggering off a series of sympathetic vibrations that grow to produce waves of extraordinary size and destructive force. Tsunamis have been documented for over 4,000 years and are known to have achieved heights of up to 120 feet and speeds of up to 500 miles per hour. On reaching shore their impact is often devastating and terrifying.

This piece tries to capture in music some of the elemental power of this phenomenon, as well as reflecting the key stages in the progress of a Tsunami.

The build-up to a really big Tsunami seems to be rather paradoxical: the tide actually goes out – much further than usual. The opening phase of the piece is therefore intended to show a gradual emptying out of energy. The slow central section (featuring florid solos) sees the tide at its lowest ebb, before an extended fast section encapsulates the dramatic “run-up” to the ultimate inundation as the wave reaches shore and its energy is finally, catastrophically, spent.

Tsunami was commissioned by the Welsh Amateur Music Federation for the National Youth Brass Band of Wales. It was composed in 2001-2002 and is dedicated to Robert and Lorraine Childs.

John Pickard