top of page

An Axe for the Frozen Sea
for orchestra

DURATION: c. 12 minutes

INSTRUMENTATION: 2(2=picc).2.2.2 - 2.2.2.btbn.0 - T - 2P - Strings (

Perc 1: Snare Drum, Suspended Cymbal, 5 Cowbells, 4 Cymbals
Perc 2: Bass Drum, Sandpaper Blocks (fine grit), 2 Bongos, 2 Brake Drums (or similar metal objects)


There were three distinct images in my mind while writing An Axe for the Frozen Sea: small unspecified creatures, trapped, moving under an opaque film; Caspar David Friedrich’s painting The Sea of Ice, a striking depiction of a frozen shipwreck obscured under giant shards of ice; and the slow creaking of rigging on a large sailing ship on a cold winter’s night. All three are imaginary. I have never been on such a ship or seen an iceberg (much like Friedrich, who, without the advantage of photography, observed river ice instead, which is why he painted sea ice so strangely). The title is a quote from one of Franz Kafka’s letters.

An Axe for the Frozen Sea was the winning work of the 2020 George Enescu Prize for Symphonic Composition.

bottom of page