If you cannot make it into the audience during Momentum Ensemble’s three-state regional tour, never fear… We have put together a guide to the diverse, energetic program which will performed by the ensemble, so you can sit back and enjoy the music from the comfort of your home.
Or if you are attending one of the performances and would like to dive into the pieces before experiencing them live, look no further. Of the five compositions programmed, three are written by living Australian composers!
Brenda Gifford arr. Wells Bardju (2017)
YouTube credit: Ensemble Offspring – Topic
As a composer, Brenda Gifford heavily draws from her experience as a Yuin woman, growing up near Wreck Bay on the southern New South Wales coast. ‘Bardju’ translates to ‘footprints’ in the Dhurga language.
Bardju appeared on the 2018 album Music for the Dreaming, produced by ABC Classic Kids. The album contains sixteen pieces by Gifford, arranged by Jessica Wells and performed by Ensemble Offspring. The album was designed for kids aged two-five, with narrator and singer Kamil Ellis guiding listeners through teachings by Budawang Elder Noel Butler.
Toru Takemitsu Rain Coming (1982)
YouTube credit: Jan Fila
Toru Takemitsu was strongly influenced by the works and harmonic styles of Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen. Rain Coming is among a group of works referred to as Takemitsu’s Waterscape Cycle, so named as they were part of the composer’s thematic exploration of rainfall, the unique properties of water and a free-flowing sense of harmony.
A note from the composer in the original score of Rain Coming reads: ‘It is the composer’s intention to create a series of works which, like their subject (rain), pass through various metamorphoses, culminating in a sea of tonality’.
In a 1986 review of Rain Coming, musicologist Andrew Frank observed that Takemitsu’s debt to Debussy was evident in ‘a concerted alto flute [playing] a long, expressive line over delicate string harmonics and gentle piano chords. Added to this are quietly bowed pitches from the vibraphone and gently struck pitches from suspended antique cymbals. A shimmering, mystical atmosphere is continued throughout with occasional violent, interruptive outburst from one instrumental group or another’.
Julia Potter Belonging and Longing to Be (2019)
Belonging and Longing to Be was co-commissioned by the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Recital Centre and premiered in February 2020. Julia Potter had recently moved from Melbourne to Sydney to begin her master’s degree at the Australian Film Television and Radio School, specialising in film music composition.
In her own words, ‘Belonging and Longing to Be is about seeking connection in new surroundings, and the nostalgia that comes with leaving a chapter of your life behind. [After I moved], I was struggling to adjust to life in a new city. I was grieving the familiarity of living in Melbourne, seeking the sense of comfort which filled the memories of my time there, while trying my best to adapt quickly to my way of being in Sydney. I wanted this music to contain a wash of emotions, mirroring the complexity of human thoughts and feelings. Alongside moments of grief, there are moments of excitement and joy.’
Belonging and Longing to Be was written for, and premiered by, Penny Quartet.
Lachlan Skipworth – Greg Barrett Avem Asperitas (2019)
Avem Asperitas was commissioned by AYO in 2019 with the support of the late Peter Weiss AO. The creation of the piece saw composer Lachlan Skipworth collaborate with photographer Greg Barrett, while they were based on opposite sides of the country. In live performances of Avem Asperitas, musical soundscapes unfold in tandem with monochrome time-lapse clips filmed by Barrett on an iPhone.
The title brings together the Latin word for ‘bird’, and the term for a recently discovered cloud form. This might seem like an odd juxtaposition, but Skipworth writes how these recurring visual motifs influenced his own musical explorations: ‘Similar to the way there is no real-world basis for a “bird-cloud”, an intuitive use of irrational visual associations drove Barrett’s far-reaching search for his material. None of the images are pre-planned or manufactured. Clouds and birds give only a sense of thematic continuity, with Barrett’s true art lying beneath in short yet poignant glimpses of humanity. Personally, I am drawn along by fluctuations of the visual movement, their infinite patterns of stillness and fluidity.’
Modest Mussorgsky arr. Yu Pictures at an Exhibition (1874)
YouTube credit: atsusiueno
Modest Mussorgsky penned Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874, after the untimely death of his friend Viktor Hartmann at the age of 39. Hartmann was a designer and architect known for his colourful flourishes of creativity, suited more to grand structures than ‘everyday’ functional objects.
After his death, a critic organised a retrospective of Hartmann’s work at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. This exhibition contained hundreds of designs, drawings and watercolours. Mussorgsky used ten drawings and models to form the original ten-movement version of the work on piano. A recurring Promenade passage is woven in between these movements, as Mussorgsky represents himself strolling from picture to picture.
Mussorgsky never orchestrated the piece for any other instruments during his lifetime. However, Pictures at an Exhibition has been revisited and arranged a staggering number of times in the 150 (ish) years since- Momentum Ensemble will be performing an arrangement for seventeen musicians by Australian composer Julian Yu.