Australian composer James Ledger

12 mins

Premiere: 26 June 2004
St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Hannu Lintu, conductor

The inspiration and title for this work comes from a short story by Peter Carey. In his story, Carey uses the idea of ‘peeling’ the outer layer of ‘skin’ away from people to reveal another person or characteristic of that person. The main character in the story peels away the skin of a woman using a zip on her neck to reveal a male underneath, and then repeats this to again reveal a woman.

The idea of peeling has so many connotations. I thought of applying this idea of ‘peeling’ to a piece of music, where one idea gradually falls away to reveal another. A further example is in the peeling of an orange: – sometimes only small pieces fall off at a time, in other instances, large pieces of peel can tear off revealing a large portion of flesh. My piece has examples of this – sometimes pieces fall away gradually, only revealing what’s underneath very cautiously. In other moments huge parts of the music fall away, to expose new material in large chunks.

Peeling was commissioned by Symphony Australia for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and first performed in 2004 under Hannu Lintu. The premiere took place in Adelaide’s St Peter’s Cathedral. The opportunity to include the cathedral’s bells seemed serendipitous as the pealing of bells relates, at least phonetically, to the title. In most performances venues however, a full-sized set of cathedral bells isn’t available, so the part is instead performed on Tubular bells.

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