Notes from the composer, her mothers and the Orcas


Thoughts from the Composer: Kaley Lane Eaton

who created half of the sound score for Sea Change Within Us, using electronics and sounds from Eaton’s great-great-great-grandparent’s piano that traveled by raft up the Missouri River - woven with the voices of interviewees from our collaboration with Devi Lockwood’s 1,001 Stories on Water and Climate Change.

"Is the Mother’s Day connection intentional? It occurred to me last night as I cried big, soul tears during the salmon and orca section that we made art together with the orcas and my mothers, quite literally. Somehow it didn’t hit me until then that the only sounds I used in this work came from my maternal line’s ancestral piano, and the Southern Residents themselves: my mothers were literally singing with the orcas. A duet, across cosmic planes. I have long felt that the ghosts of my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great grandmother and great-great-great grandmother live in my piano. And Tahlequah’s pain last summer was so deeply felt to all of us, but to me on another level, in that I knew that she was my mother, and her mothers my grandmothers, and her baby, who? Me? All the sourced piano music in the score I created for you came from a single improvisation on this instrument, during which I felt all of these spirits channeled.

My mother has told me she is an orca - 3 separate, unexpected times - as I’ve sat on the beach of Puget Sound, missing her, and then seeing a wave of dorsal fins cut through the mist. Once the day before her funeral, once as I sat silent with my grandmother on Thanksgiving day. In your movement, the hands like dorsal fins and the blow hole exhalations were these moments exactly, occurring now on another plane, with another element of urgency. It was a kind of joyful, terrifying, unbearable beauty to watch these critical moments in my life replayed in your work; I have no words to explain it.

My mother and my grandmother are the water. They are the orcas, and they are the fox that came up to me in the beach fog as I sprinkled my mother’s ashes in the Pacific Ocean at Moclips. They are the currents that sent my grandmother’s ashes swirling downriver at Beaver Creek in Montana to meet the remaining ashes of her daughter and her husband. They are the salmon that die to feed their young. And they are the women in my life that have come to me to commune in art.

I’m still unable to articulate it, but I felt my mothers in the room with us last night, and I felt that they communicated to you through movement as you made this work, as I made these sounds, as your brilliant movers encircled the space, gasping for air, releasing air, releasing themselves, their hands raised like dorsal fins, their young lifted in horror and sacrifice. It was art, but it was also one of the most blindingly real moments of my life, like you had opened my heart and told my story. That 10 minutes where we travel from the rivers to the orcas is, quite possibly, the best thing we have ever made together. How to share this with the world? Is 5 performances even enough? What do we do with this kernel of truth? It is so much larger than a performance, a ticket, an audience, a video. But perhaps that is the most glorious thing about it: it cannot be contained. I am filled with such deep gratitude and love to you for this work. It is coincidental, but this - the first Mother’s Day where I am the only woman left in my maternal line, a year after my grandmother’s death - is the greatest gift I could ever receive. 

Happy Mother's Day to you and your three perfect, brilliant, fierce and powerful baby orcas: they are so lucky to have you lead their pod. I am honored to swim alongside you all as a friend. I feel it is only appropriate that I see the show again tomorrow to celebrate!!!!!!!!

Kaley Lane Eaton’s family - Photos placed above Kaley’s piano.

Kaley Lane Eaton’s family - Photos placed above Kaley’s piano.

Here are the women we sing with. The oldest woman in the portrait is who bought the piano - pictured here with her daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandaughter (the little girl, who is my grandmother, my mother's mother). The photo of the woman on the bottom left is, of course, my mom.”

Karin Stevens Dance