SCULTHORPE: Earth Cry / Piano Concerto / Kakadu
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Peter SCULTHORPE (b. 1929)
The present recording contains works that, in one wayor another, are related to the Pacific region, includingAustralia. They were written during the last thirty yearsof my compositional life.
In many ways, Australia is the one of the few placeson Earth where one can honestly write quick and joyousmusic. All the same it would be dishonest of me to writemusic that is wholly optimistic. The lack of a commoncause and the self-interest of many have drainedAustralian society of much of its energy. A bogusnational identity and its commercialisation haveobscured the true breadth of our culture. Most of thejubilation, I feel, awaits us in the future. We now needto attune ourselves to the continent, to listen to the cryof the earth as the Aborigines have done for manythousands of years. Earth Cry (1986) is astraightforward and melodious work. Its four parts aremade up of a quick ritualistic music framed by slowermusic of a supplicatory nature, and an extended coda.
While the work is very much in my own personal idiom,the treatment of the orchestra represents a newdeparture. This is particularly noticeable in the way thatinstruments are doubled. First and second violins, forinstance, sing in unison for most of the work, and lowerstrings often sing with the lower brass. Furthermore, inorder to summon up broader feelings and a broaderlandscape I have added a part for didgeridoo.
It seems that on Easter Island, at the beginning ofthe seventeenth century, there was a populationexplosion. The inhabitants stripped the islands of trees,causing soil erosion and depriving themselves ofbuilding materials for boats and housing. Retreating tocaves, clans fought each other, and finally there wasenslavement and cannibalisation. By the time the firstEuropeans arrived, in 1722, the survivors had evenforgotten the significance of the great stone heads thatstill stand there. Easter Island is a memento mori(literally 'remember to die') for this planet. The concernof this work, therefore, is not with what happened to theinhabitants of Easter Island, but with what could happento all of us, with what could happen to the human race.
Much of the music, then, is dominated by the oscillationof the pitches G and A flat, which the astronomerKepler, a contemporary of Shakespeare, believed to bethe sound of planet earth. I have also used part of theplainchant Dies irae, from the Latin Requiem Mass.
Memento Mori (1993) is a straightforward work, in onemovement. Following an introduction, two statementsof the plainchant lead into music of lamentation, musicwhich is based on the Kepler premise. Two furtherstatements of the plainchant lead to the climax. This isfollowed by music of regret, which also suggests thepossibility of salvation.
During the period that my Piano Concerto (1983)was written, three of my closest friends died.
Furthermore I was involved in an almost-fatal accident.
The work, however, is more concerned with lifeaffirmationthan with death, and if I have written morewithin the European concert tradition than is mycustom, this is because I felt that the genre demanded it.
All the same, at one time I considered calling the work'Pacific'. In one continuous movement, the work is infive sections: Grave - Animato - Grave, Calmo,Animato - Risoluto, Come Notturno, Estatico. The firstsection is related to the third and fourth sections, and thesecond, the longest, is related to the last, althoughmotives from the opening do appear in these twosections. Flutes and clarinets are omitted from theorchestra, so that the wind instruments used form a reedchoir, consisting of two oboes, two bassoons and acontra-bassoon. It might be added that some of themusical ideas stem from both the ancient court music ofJapan and the Balinese gamelan.
From Oceania (1970/2003) is based upon the lastpart of my orchestral work, Music for Japan. The latterwas written for the Australian Youth Orchestra to playmy Sun Music style, I thought of it as a present to Japanfrom Australia. Unlike most of my music, it contains nomelodic material and little harmonic movement. Insteadthe orchestra is treated almost like a giant percussioninstrument. In From Oceania, I begin with percussionitself. Other instruments are gradually added, leading toa section marked Feroce, ma ben misurato, and aclimax consisting of a tone cluster spanning the entireorchestra. An E major chord is then twice revealed,followed by a coda, most of which is unmeasured.
Kakadu (1988) takes its name from the KakaduNational Park in Northern Australia. An enormouswilderness area, it extends from coastal tidal plains torugged mountain plateaux, and the culture of the localtribe, the gagadju, dates back for some fifty thousandyears. Sadly, today there are only a few remainingspeakers of the language. The work, then, is concernedwith my feeling about this place, its landscape, itschange of seasons, its dry season and its wet, its cycle oflife and death. Basically the music is in three parts. Theouter parts are dance-like and energetic, with all themelodic material, as in much of my recent music,suggested by the contours and and rhythms ofindigenous chant. The somewhat introspective centralpart, preceded by a dramatic section containingimitations of birdsong, is quite firmly based upon achant from this particular area. Kakadu wascommissioned in 1988 by an American friend, EmanuelPapper, as a gift for his wife, upon her birthday. The coranglais, which is played in the quiet sections of thework, represents his voice. In the central part, forinstance, the long chromatic melody played incounterpoint with the chant is intended as an expressionof his love.Peter Sculthorpe