To honor the 100th anniversary of history’s most infamous passenger liner disaster, Celtic/Native (Southern Paiute/Métis) flutist and fiddler Arvel Bird has released Titanic Centennial, an album based on the experience of the passengers, crew and musicians on the ship. Woven through Titanic Centennial’s 11 tracks are elements of “Nearer My God to Thee” and “Songe d’Automne,” tunes famously played by the band as the liner was sinking. Also heard on the album are morse code, tapping out the distress signal sent out by the ship, and rhythms meant to evoke the sound of firemen and stokers shoveling the coal that powered the Titanic's engines.
“Titanic is one of the most emotional albums I’ve ever recorded,” said Bird in a statement on his website. “I felt like an actor preparing for each new role with each composition I wrote. [The Titanic's] bandleader Wallace Hartley and three band members, for example, continued playing and doing what they loved best until the very end, comforting the distraught passengers. I hope that I would have been that brave and done my best to keep the scared passengers calm, but no one knows for sure until they’re in that situation. The music created an exciting range of emotions in me, and the studio musicians on the album experienced the same emotions in their performance of the scores..”
With the sinking of the Costa Concordia, the topic of shipwrecks is a current one. But for anyone wondering how these two disasters separated by a century compare—there essentially is no comparison. An article at MSNBC finds that while the Costa Concordia was bigger and carried more passengers, the Titanic disaster "wins," so to speak, in terms of tragedy‚ by a mile. At present, Concordia rescuers have found 17 dead, and have called off the search for another 16 who are still missing. The death toll for the Titanic was 1,514.