On 21 September members of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra premiere Lisa Illean’s Lightsense III for string trio and pre-recorded sounds in the Gandel Atrium of the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.

Illean says that the 5-minute piece evokes the qualities of delicate early morning light, conveying in sound shifts in presence and intensity as it quickens and fades. As with many of Illean’s works, the interplay of tempered and non-tempered tunings creates a complex, shifting palette of harmonic colours and moods; so too does Illean explore textural and timbral transformations by asking the players to gradually turn a ‘diffuse’ tone into a clear one through meticulous control of bow speed, pressure, and position.

Lightsense III, as the title suggests, revisits and reworks earlier music by Illean. The creation of this version of Lightsense was supported by The Canberra Symphony Orchestra. It will be performed by Doreen Cumming (violin), Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (viola), and Samuel Payne (cello), with Craig Greening on electronics.

Illean’s music often draws on shifting and refracted patterns of light and shadow as inspiration. Recent examples include Weather a Rare Blue (2018) for chamber ensemble and pre-recorded sounds, inspired by Dan Graham’s pavilion Double Exposure, and arcing, stilling, bending, gathering (2022) for piano, string ensemble and pre-recorded sounds, premiered by Aura Go and the Australian National Academy of Music, and inspired by the play of light and reflection on shopfront windows in two films by Sergei Eisenstein.

Later this season Ryan Wigglesworth and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will premiere a 20-minute work for orchestra and pre-recorded sounds by Illean, commissioned by the BBC, at concerts in Glasgow and Aberdeen in February 2024 – details here.