for Flute (doubling on alto flute) and Piano
II - Portrait of the Northern White Rhinoceros
III - Scherzo for the Kakapo
IV - Lament for the Yangtze River Dolphin
V - Postlude
Chance" is inspired by the book "Last Chance to See" by Mark Carwardine
The composition consists of a Prelude, Postlude, and musical portrayals of three animals encountered in "Last Chance to See":
the Northern White Rhinoceros, the Kakapo, and the Baiji (which is also known as the Yangtze River Dolphin).
The Northern White Rhinoceros is critically endangered due to poaching. Almost wiped out in the 1970s,
the population rebounded to around 30 by 2000, thanks to careful conservation. Unfortunately, it is now believed to be
extinct in the wild, with under 10 remaining in captivity. The Northern White Rhinoceros is not actually white - it's gray.
The name is derived from the word "weit", meaning "wide." Smell is the strongest sense for these rhinos;
their eyesight is used much in the way we use secondary senses.
Kakapo is the world's largest and rarest parrot, and used to be native
to New Zealand.
Originally, the main inhabitants of New Zealand were birds: they were the only type of animal able to reach the island.
Because of this, the kakapo had no predators, and the ability to eat a lot at one time was more important than the ability to fly,
which the kakapo eventually lost. That said, the kakapo does not always realize it can't fly, and occasionally will fall gracelessly out of a tree!
Unfortunately, when humans eventually inhabited New Zealand, they brought other animals with them,
and the kakapo was suddenly faced with predators and no defense mechanisms. Another interesting evolutionary quirk
of the kakapo is its mating ritual. The male kakapo will dig out a bowl in the forest: against a rock or some other place with good acoustics.
He will proceed to "boom", during which he makes a low-frequency noise by inflating and deflating air sacs.
The goal of this is to attract females, but a characteristic of low-frequency noises is that it is nearly impossible to find where they are coming from.
This is just one of the many obstacles which face mating kakapos: because there were no predators, it was in their evolutionary best interest
to reproduce extremely slowly. Between this and their complete lack of defense mechanisms, the kakapo is extremely unsuited
to live in the world it has recently been thrust into. At the time Carwardine and Adams wrote the book, barely 30 remained,
all of which had been moved to nearby Codfish Island (an island devoid of predators). Due to good funding, public awareness,
and tireless conservation efforts, the kakapo has now rebounded: around 130 are currently living.
Yangtze River Dolphin, or Baiji, is a tragic story: as China became
more industrialized, the Yangtze River
became progressively murkier, and the dolphins lost the ability to see. Their eyes atrophied, and they had to turn to echolocation
in order to navigate through the river. With the invention of the motorboat, the Yangtze became permeated with underwater noise,
and the dolphins' echolocation became worthless as well. Countless baiji died either from being tangled in fishing lines
or being hit by the boats which they were no longer able to see or hear. A conservation effort temporarily helped,
but when the Chinese began construction of the Three Gorges Dam, any hope of success was extinguished.
The baiji is now believed to be extinct.