Australian composer James Ledger

Igor's Drum
2013
17 mins
fl(=aflt).cl(=bcl)-perc(1): crot/SD/lge tom-t/ pedBD/metal plate/2susp.cym/chinese cym/splash cym/tgl-pft-vln.vcl

Premiere: 19 July 2013
Elder Hall, Adelaide
Soundstream Collective
Brett Dean, conductor

This work was written around the time of the centenary of the first performance of Igor Stravinsky's game-changing ballet, The Rite of Spring . As a kind of tribute honouring this work, I composed Igor's Drum :- the 'drum' in the title referring to Igor's incredible ear(drum) for sonority and colour and also the dominating percussion part.
The work is made up of six contrasting sections. None of the material quotes Stravinsky but there are allusions to the harmonic world of The Rite . The structure is also indebted to Stravinsky as it is made up of sections of contrasting material that are juxtaposed against one another. The musical material for Igor's Drum comes from only a handful of musical patterns. It begins with an explosion of chords before settling to a pulse on the cello. The chords from the beginning are arpeggiated and fragmented and entwine themselves around the pulse. The second section is marked by a slow bluesy melody in the violin above agitated ascending fragments in the cello and bass clarinet. This leads to the languid third section where the opening chords are now heard in an apparently eternally downward spiralling lament. There is a stark interruption in this section with all instruments in either their extreme highest or lowest register (or both). An energised fifth section follows. Long melodies in the violin are encrusted with flashy scales in the wind. The sixth section encompasses the bluesy violin melody, now mutated into a shaking hypnotic line. The major-scale pattern appears here too. This section uses material from the preceding sections until it climaxes with the interruption from the third section, now in reverse. The final section mirrors the third in mood. The piano continues to bang out the major scale pattern in a random fashion, whilst the violin plays the melody from the fourth section echoed by the alto flute. The music rises to a brief head, and then the piano finally plays a descending C-major scale over the full range of the instrument. This is short-lived, and the music crashes on a low cluster whilst little bells ring out at first then fade away.

Igor's Drum was commissioned by Soundstream Collective with support from the Australia Council for the Arts.




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