Mysterious sounds from the depths of the ocean inspired Jacob Barrow, an Eastern New Mexico University freshman from San Antonio, Texas, to compose "Keepers of the Deep."
After entering his composition into Robert J. Bradshaw's call for scores for the Huntsville (Alabama) Youth Orchestra's Sixth Annual Young Composers' Forum at the Tennessee Valley Music Festival, he was named one of two national winners. Barrow will attend the Tennessee Valley Music Festival in Huntsville, Alabama, June 5-11, sitting in on rehearsals of his piece, attending lectures and seminars and enjoying other musical opportunities.
Barrow said “Keepers of the Deep” was inspired by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) detecting a powerful underwater noise in 1997 west of the southern tip of South America. This noise was attributed to large icebergs, but then in 2002, the NOAA admitted the sound was consistent with large marine animals.
“After listening to these various sounds, I was entranced.," Barrow marveled. "It is said that we have only officially explored 5% or less of our world's oceans. What else could be lying out there that we have little to no knowledge about?”
“I began researching, learning about different expeditions and dives, and ridiculous looking animals from the deepest depths of the ocean, when I found a post on a website called Reddit titled ‘Confessions of a Deep Sea Diver,’ of which there are three installments. The author, a user named PizzND, explained his former job as a professional diver. He and his team dove for many reasons, from salvage missions for the military to simple clean up jobs for oil rigs and the like.”
Barrow says, at first, the diver’s job was straightforward and simple. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then strange things began to happen, the first of which was finding strange shells in his tool bag while underwater that had hieroglyphics engraved on them. From there, the diver's experiences only became stranger and more grotesque. By the end, the final explanation is that the strange apparitions encountered while under the water are lost souls of those who died at sea, and are jealous of those who can return to land. They want to hinder their return, and are determined to prevent their escape to land, “an image I reference in my piece by a long line of rapidly descending notes.”
These beings are referred to by the divers as the Keepers of the Deep.
“These various stories and sounds led to my initial inspiration for the piece, Barrow said.
“While composing, I also stumbled across the H. P. Lovecraft stories of Cthulhu, an ancient deity who resembles a man with an octopus head and dragon-like wings. These stories describe the deity as a trapped creature who must escape to reign terror on the world. A section of my composition resembles a stomp-like gait, directly emulating my vision of this monstrous creature emerging from the ocean and wreaking its havoc across the world.”
In high school, Barrow was involved in choir: varsity men, varsity mixed, and show choir at Winston Churchill High School in San Antonio.
While in these ensembles, he cultivated his love of singing and performing, becoming an all-state soloist singer. During his senior year, he took AP Music Theory and started learning how much more to music there was than just singing notes on a page.
“The underlying structure fascinated me in a way that performing never had,” Barrow remembered. “I had little confidence in my composing skills at that time, but I just constantly wrote little melodies; now here I am, a year later and a national winner.”
Barrow says he chose to attend ENMU because of its “superb music department." My mom's co-worker overheard that I was planning on studying vocal performance and, as an alumnus, he recommended Eastern. Music Department
“I arranged my audition in February of 2015, and I loved the campus. It was astounding, the Music Building was welcoming, and I knew instantly that this was where I needed to be. I'm able to perform a ridiculous amount because I was put into both auditioned choral ensembles, Chamber Singers and Swanee Singers.”
Barrow says his realistic goal is to be a resident composer for some form of institution – preferably at a college – so he can also teach music theory and composition.
“The dream goal is a more unrealistic: to be a film composer – not unlike John Williams who composed the scores for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, etc., and Michael Giacchino who composed music for The Incredibles, Sky High, Ratatouille, Cloverfield, Star Trek, Up, Lost, etc.,” Barrow said.
He says the field of composing for film and television is vicious: constant competition, constant comparisons and ridiculous time schedules. “Giacchino had to compose some parts for the TV series Lost within hours, so they could be ready for the airing of the show that week,” Barrow said.
“I just want to say what an honor it is to be studying with such talented and knowledgeable professors and students. Coming to follow my dreams at Eastern truly was one of the best decisions of my life,” Barrow said.
“I can't wait to see what's in store for me next. I hope to someday make my alma mater very proud.”