Australian composer James Ledger

10 mins
Version for orchestra:
2(II=aflt).2(II=corA).2(II=bcl).2- glspl/ ride cym-strings

Premiere: 22 April 2010
Burnie Town Hall, Tasmania
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
Dmitry Sitkovetsky, conductor

Version for chamber ensemble:
1(=picc).1(=corA).1(=bcl).1-; timp/glspl/3tpl bl/piccSD/vibraslap/lge ride cym-pft-strings(

I was driving through my home city of Perth some weeks before receiving the commission from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and thought how beautiful the Swan River looked at night. Navigation lights from boats and neon signs from buildings on the foreshore combined to create a tranquil yet dazzling display. During the day the same scene isn’t half as appealing – the luminescent quality is replaced by cold hard concrete and steel, and the water, muddy brown. Later, I reflected on seeing the Christmas lights in the city as a child. I would stare in wonderment at these dazzling and luminous displays which admittedly now seem a bit tacky. It was these thoughts and memories that formed the idea for the piece.

Neon is an aural drive through dazzling light-filled displays against a backdrop of tranquil calm. The qualities of serenity, luminescence and perhaps, occasionally, nostalgia, cohabit a world of tawdriness and sleaze – complete with show-tunes. After all, neon lights are usually associated with urban areas of seedy nightlife and gaudy entertainment – think Moulin Rouge or Las Vegas.

After a short and agitated introduction, a blanket of serene strings begins its drive through an imagined neon-filled cityscape. Multi-coloured neon lights flicker on and off and snippets of imagined show-tunes come and go as if cruising down a boulevard of night clubs. Then there is a transition of more flashes of light and colour that culminates with the entire orchestra imitating a neon sign bursting into life. The last part of the piece focuses on the delight and child-like wonder of these neon signs or even just the simplicity of a single light at night that captures our attention and imagination.

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