Rip Hayman “Waves: Real and Imagined”

As a student of John Cage, Ravi Shankar, Philip Corner, and others, composer and maritime captain Rip Hayman has developed his own, unique voice. On this recent entry from the always stellar Recital Program, Hayman is concocting gilded suites for the vast, open ocean. Hayman’s work embodies the dichotomies of the sea, at times gentle and slowly rolling toward an unspecific destination; at others, chaotic and vicious, with no safe harbor to be found. Waves: Real and Imagined beautifully embodies both poles and points in between through two long-form pieces.

Opening side, “Waves for Flutes,” is merciful and forgiving, though forlorn memories float in the distance just out of reach, but never out of mind. Flute has such a poetic, ethereal undercurrent to it and Hayman uses these timbres to his advantage, bringing solemn reflection to the opening and as the water spreads out before us, shimmering brilliantly in bright, orange sunlight, the sound takes on a silvery resonance. The interplay is lulling, finding a balance between lucid dreaming and meditative transience where time is a loop and the cool breeze off the ship’s bow breathes life back into our memories. It’s a hypnotic, beautiful piece from 1977 that I’m thrilled has been set free into the world.

“Seascapes” fills the flipside, recorded on the Pacific Ocean in 2020, and documents the shifting winds and soaring waves as they take each other on, using the ship as a medium for sonic exultation. Haunted through shrills and howls, piercing through the darkness like a luminous arrow in flight, “Seascapes” taps all the senses. I can smell the ocean’s briny air as waves lap against the metal bow to create a hollow interval for the wind to regretfully sing. There’s a tension in these aural spaces that mostly stays in motion, but in the brief respites of stillness, we find our connection called back toward the shore.

Waves: Real and Imagined is a sublimely crafted aqueous exploration in tactile sound. Where “Waves for Flutes” is an ode the beauty to be found beyond the horizon, “Seascapes” is lyrical in its realism and stark truths. Hayman’s ability to balance both sides and bring them together as a full, sprawling picture is sublime. 

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