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Industrial Night Music is my first large-scale work for string quartet alone, commissioned by Michael Skinner and Sandra Yates in memory of Michael’s father. One of the aspects of Michael’s father’s life was that he worked as a metallurgist in a variety of countries, most notably in India. This created a sense of resonance to me as I grew up in the Illawarra, a region dominated by the steelworks at Port Kembla. I briefly worked at Port Kembla and also in the blast furnace at the Whyalla steelworks. The outer sections of Industrial Night Music are built around musical expressions of mechanical and industrial processes viewed at close quarters. These include pollution, grime, dirt, ugliness, heat, a (male) worker surrounded by a surfeit of continually grinding interlocking gears, “mecchanico machismo”. The middle section is quite different: slow-moving, it portrays the still beauty of a large industrial workplace at night, viewed from afar, lit up by thousands of lights like a giant Christmas tree. It is only after one goes within the structures themselves that the true nature of the processes involved are revealed.
‘This was a very evocative piece conjuring the sounds of heavy industry in its dissonance, glissandos and syncopated rhythms. The middle section had an eerie stillness which was followed by an ending of highoctane energy of relentless intensity.’ The Mercury (Lynette Smith), 22 August 2003 ‘… opened like a roller-coaster with two gears: very fast and crazy fast. You could just about catch your breath during a twinkling interlude; then it was full speed ahead to the end.’ The New York Times (Steve Smith), 8 July 2008 ‘The recklessly frenetic pace, muscular phrasing and rock and roll feel infused the music with continual excitement. A guitarsmashing riff for the cello, an impressive fiddle solo and the slow quiet center section seemed to reflect the different phases of factory life. The quartet maintained the driving momentum, and the work ended with a kind of running-down-the hill crash.’ MusicalAmerica.com (Gail Wein), 9 July 2008