Australian composer James Ledger

In Orbit
17 mins
2(I=picc.II=picc+aflt).0.2(I,II=bcl).0-*-strings (
*one pft requires detuning

Premiere: 20 Sep 2011
South Melbourne Town Hall
Eighth Blackbird and Musicians of the Australian National Academy of Music

In Orbit is written for two similar, but not identical sextets that are split left and right on the stage. The first sextet consists of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, double bass and piano. I thought of the second sextet as a kind of 'broken' ensemble that mirrors the first. It includes a detuned piano that gives it a kind of decrepit, almost other-worldly sound.
The initial thoughts for this piece came from the surprising and often disturbing way the media can act in today’s society. We have all seen images of a media scrum circling around a celebrity or politician. I thought that this was analogous to the thousands of satellites and pieces of space junk that orbit the earth. The structure of the piece reflects this – there are four smaller 'satellite' movements surrounding the large fourth movement entitled Endless Circus. In this movement, the second sextet circles around and harasses the first as if a media pack were hounding a celebrity.
The remaining movements all have astronomical titles. The final fifth movement called "Death of a Star" has a purposefully ambiguous title meaning either - star in the astronomical sense, or star as in popular celebrity.

Notes on second piano:
Piano (2) requires special tuning. This is to tune as normal, then move one string of each note slightly out of tune. The best effect is achieved when the strings are all out of tune by a slightly varying amount and a when they are detuned with a mix of slightly flat and sharp notes. This produces a jangly or ‘honky-tonk’ effect. Because two out of the three strings remain in-tune the overall shape of the pitch is intact, but the tone is now distinctly coloured. No other preparation is needed and it can therefore be practised on a regularly tuned piano.

In Orbit was commissioned by the Australian National Academy of Music.

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