Memento Mori

(1993)

by Peter Sculthorpe

Description
orchestra, with optional didjeridu
Duration
14
Genres
Full Orchestra
Instrumentation
2(II=picc).2.2.2 – 4430 – timp – perc(2): ch.cym/BD/tam-t/chime – strings
Commission

Commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation especially for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra

First Performance
2.7.1993, Perth Concert Hall, Perth, Western Australia: West Australian Symphony Orchestra/Jorge Mester
Availability

Score 0-571-51739-0 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes
It seems that on Easter Island, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, there was a population explosion. The inhabitants stripped the island of trees, causing soil erosion and depriving themselves of building materials for boats and housing. Retreating to caves, clans fought each other, and finally there was enslavement and cannibalization. By the time the first Europeans arrived, in 1722, the survivors had even forgotten the significance of the great stone heads that still stand there.
 
Easter Island is a memento mori (literally, ‘remember to die’) for this planet. The concern of this work, therefore, is not with what happened to the inhabitants of Easter Island, but with what could happen to all of us, with what could happen to the human race. Much of the music, then, is dominated by the oscillation of the pitches G and A flat, which the astronomer Kepler, a contemporary of Shakespeare, believed to be the sound of the planet Earth. I have also used part of the plainchant Dies Irae, from the
Latin Requiem Mass.
 
Memento Mori is a straightforward work, in one movement. Following an introduction, two statements of the plainchant lead into music of lamentation, music based upon the Kepler premise. Two further statements of the plainchant lead to the climax; and this is followed by music of regret, and the offering of the possibility of salvation. It might be added that both the time signature and tempo are constant throughout, in keeping with the slowly-unfolding nature of the music.
P. S.

Licensing Information

News & Reviews

'Memento Mori' reviews

‘It is a piece imbued with a religious aura, rooted in a particular landscape - barren, mysterious Easter Island, with its enormous, brooding, enigmatic statues. And it is full of tunes, most notably the ancient plainchant Dies irae, which has been used by many classical composers but seldom with the blend of reverence and coloristic effectiveness Sculthorpe has achieved … It was marvelously effective music, innovative in sound but listener-friendly. Washington Post (USA) (Joseph McLellan), 14 Read more

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