Island Rhythms is a seven-and-a-half minute celebratory piece divided into three sections: fast-slow-fast. The fast outer sections, somewhat reminiscent of Caribbean drum music, develop and explore a repeated figure through textural, timbral, registral, and dynamic contrasts. The repeated tutti chord which climaxes the work was inspired by a fragment from the final movement of Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique. The central section has a slow-moving upward direction that becomes more "luminous" as it rises. This was an attempt to depict an underwater swimmer gradually rising to the water's surface from a very deep place in the ocean.
— Joan Tower