Oram, Celeste

the naming of waters, 10′ (2018)

Composer Notes

the naming of waters is a genre-busting newly commissioned work more akin to performance art than chamber music. Using props and prompts by both musicians and audience, Celeste sets the tone with the following words:


SCENE: A burial. North Sea.

Three colours of a flag clattering.

Boat heaving and pitching. Ashes fly in

faces and cling to clothes. Flowers tossed

overboard and bruised by churning.

Trio of hired musicians on deck. Despite

best solemnities, losing battle with wind to

keep bows on strings or fingers on keys. All

things wooden prone to creaking in sympathy

with the hull. Voices are swallowed.

Indelicate seagulls.

Engine cuts. Flag droops. Bells toll for the

dead. Boat turns and follows its wake home.

The ghost boat continues course toward open

sea. Music drifts, grows fainter, until it

can no longer be heard on the wind from



Celeste was born in Manhattan, learned to walk and talk in London, grew up in Auckland, and is presently based in Southern California.


Her work investigates new media and strategies for musical notation: namely, video and audio scores and has been performed and recorded by numerous notable ensembles across the USA, New Zealand and Australia. Celeste was the Auckland Philharmonia’s Rising Star young composer-in-residence (2013/14); her commissioned orchestral work macropsia was selected as a finalist in the 2014 SOUNZ Contemporary Award for excellence in New Zealand contemporary composition; she performed her non-instrumental solo piece O I at the 2016 Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music in Germany and was awarded the Kranichstein Prize for composition.


An ongoing project is the renovation of histories of New Zealand music and sonic cultures. At present, this revolves around research into early 20th-century ham radio activity, and the figure of Vera Wyse Munro (1897-1966). This project is rapidly snowballing into an obsession with building re-creations of early radio circuits. She is currently pursuing a PhD in music composition at the University of California San Diego, where she completed an MA in 2016. She completed a BMusBA with first-class Honours at the University of Auckland in 2012, studying with Eve de Castro-Robinson, John Elmsly, and Leonie Holmes.


Composed in residence at Civitella Ranieri, Umbertide with support from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. Commissioned by NZTrio.

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