A new orchestral work focusing on marine conservancy & ocean noise pollution


Music by Stella Sung

with a film by Annie Crawley


In the spring of 2016, Maestro Christopher Wilkins and I attended a lecture at the New England Aquarium given by marine biologists Dr. Scott Kraus (VP and Senior Science Advisor, NEAq) and Dr. Christopher Clark (Senior scientist, Cornell University) in which we learned about the problems of ocean noise pollution caused by seismic testing, the air guns used for this process, large ships and ocean vessels, and other man-made noises. The effects of these noises can be devastating for all marine species from fish to plankton, but particularly for those that depend upon sound waves for their communication, finding food sources, and navigation.


With this knowledge in mind, I decided that my new composition, Oceana, would have a focal point of reminding us of how important the ecosystem of the oceans are for not only marine life but for human life as well.  I have compiled a soundtrack comprised of recordings of marine life animal sounds (various whale, dolphin, seals, and other sounds) that runs throughout the piece.  The work is divided into three basic sections; 1) the beauty, majesty, and mystery of the seas and the life forms that live there, 2) the man-made disturbances of that ecosystem, and 3) the hope that humans can find a balance of living alongside the oceans and marine life so that our co-existence is based upon respect and understanding and knowledge. Working with the NEAq and other scientists, Maestro Wilkins, and marine underwater film-maker/ photographer/scuba diver and educator Annie Crawley, we have formed a collaborative effort in bringing not only the composition to life, but to help bridge a deeper understanding and appreciation for the wonders of the oceans.

To enhance the audience experience and knowledge, an interactive app is available whereby audience members can download the app with a library of marine life sounds, and then activate these sounds during the performance of the work on their mobile devices. 

Additionally, a virtual reality experience using the music from Oceana is currently being developed at the University of Central Florida's Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), a nationally ranked graduate program for video game and VR development.

Stella Sung, June 2019


the interactive "Oceana music" app in

the Apple App store and Google Play

Credits and special thanks:

Christopher Wilkins, Music Director ( Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Akron Symphony Orchestra)

Annie Crawley, underwater film maker/photographer/educator

Dr. Christopher Clark, Senior Scientist, Cornell University

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University 

Dr. Scott Kraus, VP and Senior Science Advisor, New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium (Boston, MA)

Boston Landmarks Orchestra (Boston, MA)

Akron Symphony Orchestra (Akron, OH)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Jon Friskics, App developer

Matt Tracy, Audio Engineer, University of Central Florida

Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, University of Central Florida

Center for Research and Education in Arts, Technology, and Entertainment, University of Central Florida

College of Arts and Humanities, University of Central Florida



"In the spring of 2016, conductor Christopher Wilkins and composer Stella Sung attended a lecture at the New England Aquarium. There, marine biologists Scott Kraus and Christopher Clark discussed the problems of noise pollution brought about by shipping and ocean industry upon marine wildlife. Sung was inspired and set to work on a composition that reflected this environmental threat.

From an ecological standpoint, her resulting Oceana, which was commissioned by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra and heard in its world premiere at the Hatch Shell Wednesday night, projects a hopeful vision of a serene natural world led and protected by human efforts.

      As concert music, it is consistently engaging. Lush and brimming with melody, Sung’s music has the broad sweep and direct emotional appeal of a film score. Like her Rockwell Reflections, which Wilkins and the Landmarks Orchestra performed in July 2016, Oceana is a multimedia experience. Haunting images of whales, darting fish, and littered beaches prepared by filmmaker Annie Crawley provide a visual narrative to a score rife with tension and release. The three interconnected sections of Oceana, which together run to 13 minutes, unfold from prerecorded whale songs. Sung’s melodic fragments gradually harmonize these sounds, as if to give hope to the idea that humans and marine animals can coexist.

      But noises gradually interrupt the balance. Hammer strokes fill the air, and horns and trumpets blare out blistering dissonances. Yet Oceana concludes on a note of optimism. The whale songs return and are complemented by shimmering orchestral lines, a subtle call for humans to develop new ways to protect endangered marine life. Crawley’s final images, which continue after the final chord is sounded, drive the point home: whales and fish are photographed alongside human divers, who watch from a friendly, though cautious, distance.

      Wilkins and the Landmarks Orchestra offered a vivid rendering of this intriguing mix of music, science, and activism to make Sung and Crawley’s environmentalist message ring clearly without being preachy." 

Aaron Keebough, Boston Classical Review, August 16, 2018.

"After a remarkable and enchanting performance of And God Created Great Whales by Alan Hovhaness, we heard the the West Coast premiere of Stella Sung’s,Oceana, a work chosen so recently that it wasn’t even mentioned in the printed program. In Sung’s score, innovative orchestral sounds blend with pre-recorded whale songs and project the hope that humans and marine wildlife can coexist peacefully for many generations to come."

Lyn Bronson
March 17, 2019

Penisula Reviews, Carmel, CA

"Hovhanne's Great Whales was premiered in 1970, well before we knew what today’s scientists and oceanographers know about climate change and the degradation of the oceans. To that end, Pak invited John Ryan of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) to the stage for a short interview about oceanic pollution, specifically noise pollution that, because it travels faster and much farther in water than in air, disorients marine life that depends on sonic communications for everything from feeding to reproduction. 

That set up the next piece, Stella Sung’s Oceana, a personally forceful tone poem in crystal clear musical language of unequivocal defiance against the industrial, commercial and military sonic ‘abuses’ of life in the oceans. Of the music, there could be no doubt. Yet that was utterly reinforced by a video, made after the fact but with equal aggression, by Annie Crawley, obviously dialed in to the same. Images of whales, fish, underwater explosions, vast tracts of floating oceanic garbage and plastics and both wildlife and human life suffering the consequences. The point was clear."

Scott MacClelland,

March 18, 2019

Performing Arts Monterey Bay News