The solo and auxiliary parts were performed and recorded by Laura Cocks while in residence at the CIRM studios in Nice, France. The instrumental parts were recorded in Le studio "Fausto Romitelli", and the session was mixed in Le studio "Jonathan Harvey". The stereo recording uses binary panning to accurately emulate the spatial positions of the auxiliary performers in a ring.
"Atolls" is written for solo piccolo and twenty-nine spatialized piccolos. In performance, the auxiliary performers surround the soloist and audience in a ring. The pitch material played the auxiliary performers is derived from the combined spectral analysis of a crash cymbal and Janet Leigh's infamous scream from Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho".
The work is inspired by Roberto Bolaño's 2004 novel "2666", and small excerpts of the text are interspersed throughout the solo piccolo part. Including the following,
“He didn’t like the earth, much less forests. He didn’t like the sea either, or what ordinary mortals call the sea, which is really only the surface of the sea, waves kicked up by the wind that have gradually become the metaphor for defeat and madness. What he liked was the seabed, that other earth, with its plains that weren’t plains and valleys that weren’t valleys and cliffs that weren’t cliffs.”
"Atolls" can be performed with upwards of 29 spatialized piccolos, or with a multi-channel speaker array. In this setup the 29 piccolo parts have been pre-recorded and are cued in performance using a foot-pedal and a laptop with a multi-channel interface and speakers distributed evenly around the audience.