Orinoco Bridges and Other Formal Experiments in the Music of Enya

David Forrest, Texas Tech University and Elyse Kahler, South Plains Community College

As Enya was preparing her 1988 album, Watermark, a Warner Music executive, Rob Dickins, asked her and her cowriters, Nicky and Roma Ryan, to write a song that could combine their experimental, instrumental sound with something that could break into the pop charts. The result, "Orinoco Flow," was an instant success that launched a 30-year, international career. Much of the popular-magazine attention has focused on Enya's unique use of the synthesizer and the studio manipulations of her voice. But the marriage of instrumental music and popular music also yielded some new musical devices that challenge formal expectations in popular music. This presentation traces how two devices -- wordless singing and a new formal section we dub the Orinoco Bridge -- blur the lines between reality and imagination, voice and instrument, and conventional formal divisions in some of Enya's most popular songs from the past 30 years.