Pacific 3-2-1-Zero (parts 1 and 2) is a work of protest against nuclear testing and waste dumping in Oceania. The structure is based on an image of isolated islands of acitivity connected by common waters whose currents now innocently carry nuclear contamination.
The work takes place in the round, with the instruments in Part 1 arranged centrally to indicate the symbol for nuclear disarmament.
The syllables heard in the first vocal section are taken from the names of individual islands within Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. These are mirrored and inverted in the same way as the rhythms in the music are. In a later vocal section the names of contaminated islands testing sites: Mururoa (France), Fangata’ufa (France), Christmas Island (UK/USA), Johnston Island (USA), Enewetak (USA), Bikini (USA) are sung, then shouted and drummed on tins to sound both lament and warning.
Part 2, developed in 1983, expresses hope and is dedicated to the emerging force of solidarity among the people of the Pacific.
This symphony has three movements. All three start with the same pulse (crotchet=60), and the third movement also ends at this tempo. Both the rhythmic conflicts in the music and its rhythmic connections (changes of tempo within a movement) are related in the ratio 3:2. This ratio also expresses the interval of a fifth, which is throughout an important arrival point and is the music’s final destination.These conflicts and changes are also associated with timbre: very often strings and brass are opposed with wind and percussion acting as mediators. The first movement is most concerned with conflicts. The opening idea announces this very simply with an opposition of two pentatonic modes (black and white keys on a keyboard), and this conflict remains unresolved at the end of the movement. The second movement alternates – combining slow movement and scherzo. The slow beginning presents an unwinding melodic line in the wind against a haze of overlapping chords on brass and strings. The fast scherzo breaks across this and tosses rhythmic fragments from section to section. The slow and fast are later combined, but in the end the fast wins, finishing the movement at breakneck speed. The third movement emphasises connections and resolutions.It is a set of variations on a chorale-like tune, starting at the basic pulse and gradually getting faster until the final variation, a quick waltz, is moving at three times the opening speed. From here the tempo shifts back and the chorale tune is combined with references to the beginning of the first movement.