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Album Review: Born of the Sea EP
Laura Sullivan and The Outlaw Ocean Music Project
Cover image of the album Born of the Sea EP by Laura Sullivan and The Outlaw Ocean Music Project
Born of the Sea EP
Laura Sullivan and The Outlaw Ocean Music Project
2020 / Synesthesia Media
16 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Born of the Sea is Grammy-winning pianist/composer Laura Sullivan's contribution to The Outlaw Ocean Music Project. The Project was inspired by Ian Urbina's best-selling book The Outlaw Ocean and several hundred artists from all over the world and representing many genres of music are participating by composing and recording music that expresses their feelings about the book and its revelations about the many horrors committed on the world's vast ocean waters. Everything from slavery, murder, staggering pollution and illegal fishing to human trafficking often go unreported and undetected in international waterways, so it's fantastic that Urbina is getting the word out in as many forms as possible - his excellent book, hundreds of artists composing music inspired by the book, and other visual media.

Laura explains her approach to the five pieces she composed and recorded for the project: "When I read The Outlaw Ocean, I was heartbroken by stories involving children whose lives were being torn apart. Either they were being abused directly, or they were greatly suffering because of so much illegal activity all around them.... I was drawn to the fate of so many children whose lives are being shattered, so there is a lot of sadness and melancholy going through the music." The piano takes the lead in some of the music, but there are many voices and other effects as well.

Born of the Sea begins with "Maritime Merry-Go-Round." Based on the fate of the many children whose fathers are murdered at sea, Laura Sullivan gave the piece a haunting, hopeless feeling. For "In the Wake," several children were recorded speaking these words in their own native languages: "The waste spewed into the waves will eventually affect us all." A poignant and mournful piano accompaniment plays behind the voices along with some subtle keyboard effects. "Child of the Pontianak" refers to one of the stories in the book about a young Vietnamese boy who was arrested on a fishing boat in Indonesian waters and jailed so far from home. The story is heartbreaking, as is the piece Laura composed for him. This one is mostly solo piano with ocean sounds and ambient effects. "Rui's Tavern" refers to a place where kids (mostly young girls) are trafficked to the illegal fishing trade. For this piece, Laura used only sound recordings that Ian Urbina made for his reporting and book - no musical instruments at all. The effects are chilling. "The Ocean's Orphans" returns to piano with some ambient keyboard sounds. Heartbreaking, tragic and ever so beautiful, it's a powerful close to the album.

Laura Sullivan has created a wonderful group of pieces expressing her feelings about The Outlaw Ocean. Born of the Sea is available from Amazon, Apple/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify. Very strongly recommended! You can find more artists and their stories as well as their music at The Outlaw Ocean Music Project's website.
July 24, 2021
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