Symphony of Modern Objects, A - Symphony No 1


Full Orchestra
picc.2(I+II=afl) - 4331 - timp -perc(3):vib/tgl/maraca/c.bell/2wdbl/vibraslap/bongo/crash.cym/susp.cym/tamb/3 rototom/brake drum/lager phone/thundersheet/tam-t/glsp/crot/small wdbl/temple bell/2 log drum/splash cym/small chinese gong/BD/drum kit with chinese.cym/rainstick - harp - strings

Commissioned by Ars Musica Australis to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of Father Arthur Bridge, for first performance by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

First Performance
23.7.03, Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, Sydney, Australia: Australian Youth Orchestra/Thomas Woods

Score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

A Symphony of Modern Objects (Symphony No 1) (2003) i. Silicon Revolution ii. Spirit Song iii. Twisted Ladders iv. Vietnam War Memorial commissioned by Ars Musica Australis to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of Father Arthur Bridge for first performance by the Australian Youth Orchestra People often ask composers, “when are you going to write a symphony?”. The symphonic form has made something of a comeback in recent times, with composers such as Carl Vine writing six of them and Ross Edwards four. In my case I have not necessarily thought of the Symphony in its traditional meaning, but rather as a a collective noun for an encompassing set of movements for orchestra. In this way, the overall architecture of A Symphony of Modern Objects is perhaps more closely related to the classical symphonies of Haydn and Mozart than the gigantically unified architectures envisaged by Bruckner or Mahler. In almost all of my musical explorations to date, I have been interested in writing music about the culture and society of today. Each movement of A Symphony of Modern Objects deals with one aspect, or one set of aspects of contemporary culture. Many of the most incredible changes in our lives over the past 10-20 years have been due to the advent of computers - a “silicon revolution”. They have transformed much of our work and leisure environments in fundamental ways. Personal computers are in a majority of homes around the world. People communicate rapidly and easily across the world using modems and the internet. In our leisure time, we may play handheld computer games or listen to electronically-generated forms of music (sometimes onomatapoeically derided as “inch” music). Computers have made everything, including our lives in general, seem so much faster, whizzing past before we’ve had a chance to really digest what’s going on. All of these characteristics have been portrayed in the first movement of this work. Perhaps as a result of this burgeoning speed, in recent years there has emerged a new form of spirituality, that of the New Age Movement. A new genre of music has correspondingly evolved, namely “New Age music”. New Age music is not a hetrogeneous genre, but in broad terms, its characteristics are: “a contemporary music which is physically relaxing… Rhythmic or tonal movements animate the experience of flying, floating, cruising, gliding, or hovering within the auditory space… employing natural outdoor ambiences — sounds of water, birds, insects, thunder, etc… the major effect of this music is to take the listener out of their body or at least out of their normal sound environment… attempting to convey the listener inward and upward to higher planes of consciousness… Continuous drones or slowly changing, endlessly repeated rhythmic structures… a continuum of spatial imagery and emotion, rather than as thematic musical relationships, compositional ideas, or performance values.” . I am personally not attached to the New Age movement in any way - I cannot fathom how a piece of quartz or a drone with a recording of a running creek could affect my life - but there are certainly many people for whom this form of spirituality is genuine and important. Unfortunately, as is probably the case with most religious movements, there also seems to be a large number of charlatans whose involvement relates very closely to a desire to make money. It is this group of people to whom the title of this movement, “Spirit Song “, is directed, using some of the cliches of New Age music. The emerging field of biotechnology is one that holds great potential for the future. This year is fifty years since the discovery of DNA, the basic building blocks of all Earth-based life. Not a week goes past without a new discovery or manipulation in this field. Perhaps this is the new frontier of discovery and exploration, an optimistic and generous vision of the future. Scientists are the new frontier-riders, racing to be the first to decipher gene sequences and their effect upon our daily lives. While there is the potential for wrong-doing, “Twisted Ladders” paints an optimistic or perhaps naive vision of the present and future. In contrast to fresh-faced innocence, our country’s involvement in the Vietnam War can be viewed in hindsight as an altogether destructive experience. For me, the most disturbing aspect of this war was the way in which the returned soldiers were treated upon their return. I find it difficult to imagine the scenario of a 19 year old, conscripted to fight in an extraordinarily physically and psychologically damaging environment, coming home only to be ignored at best, or reviled and abused at worst. It is only in recent times that the Australian government has publically and honestly recognized the sacrifices made by these men and women in what was, at the time, the service of their country. The Vietnam War was, of course, traumatic not only to the Australian serving personnel, but also to their families, and to the entire people of Vietnam in general. One need only imagine the grief-stricken wailing of a mother whose daughter has been sprayed with napalm, or of a mother whose son has returned psychologically damaged beyond repair, or of the absolute terror of a soldier or village when ambushed and attacked by opposing forces, to realize that we need to recognize the great and on-going sacrifices that all participants made to this traumatic period of recent history. Programme notes by Matthew Hindson

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