Composer Isabel Benito-Gutierrez and Dr Hannah Mossman collaborate on a piece called Ma(Ris)Ma for Violin, piano and drums, inspired by research into saltmarsh.

Dr Hannah Mossmann

Lecturer in Applied Ecology

Saltmarsh is an intertidal habitat, fringing muddy coasts, which houses unique biodiversity and acts as a natural flood defence. However, it is highly threatened with up to 50% lost due to conversion to agriculture and rising sea levels.

Recognising the importance of this habitat, restoration efforts are trying to turn low-lying agricultural land back into saltmarsh. But our research has found that these newly created marshes do not have the same vegetation as the lost natural marsh they need to replace.

One reason for this might be that new saltmarshes are very flat and so only have one set of environmental conditions. Different saltmarsh plants can cope with different conditions, so flatness might be the cause for ‘boring’ marsh.

Composer: Isabel Benito-Gutierrez

Saltmarshes are important habitats for wildlife, and they also protect coastlines from erosion and storms.

Hannah Mossman’s research involves restoring lands that used to be saltmarshes. In the past salt marshes have been reclaimed to make farmland or towns so, governments and charities are trying to create new saltmarshes. Unfortunately, it has been found that the new, restored salt marshes do not have the same plants as natural ones. Restored salt marshes are flatter than the naturally bumpy natural marsh.

When Hannah explained to Isabel the nature of her research on saltmarshes, they decided to create a piece which reflects this process from natural saltmarshes – flat/restored saltmarshes – recovered saltmarshes. In that way, the structure of the piece is A – B – A, where A is a richer texture with many more sources of sounds and rhythms while B is a more flat and static section. Also, the title of the piece shows this ternary form. ‘Marisma’ means saltmarsh in Spanish, ‘Ma’ is the A sections and ‘ris’ the middle B section. As saltmarshes were abruptly changed into farmland the transition from A to B is more aggressive and sudden while, B to A has a more gradual direction as the process to recovering saltmarshes is also happening more moderately.

Isabel Benito Gutiérrez is currently pursuing a PhD in composition at the RNCM, researching about the use of music as an interdisciplinary art form collaborating with professionals from different artistic disciplines particularly painters. What makes Isabel’s research and work innovative is that it is not just the idea of observing a piece of art as a musical inspiration but considering the artist/painter as one more performer who follows some directions. In that way, the visual art meets compositional techniques and is coordinated and structured not only in the space but also in time as music is.

Isabel has performed at the Liverpool University Lunchtime concerts series, Open Circuit Festival, Liverpool LightNight, Grosvenor Gallery in Manchester, Video Jam, L’Auditori de Barcelona, F.A.C.T., Botín Foundation in Santander and many others.

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