War Music

Text by Paul Kelly

25 mins
I=BD/lge bongo/2tpl.bl/3Tom-t/Tam-t;
II=xyl/glspl/sm bongo/tbells/sm tri;

Premiere: 22 April 2015
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Gondwana Chorale
Richard Gill, conductor
22 April 2015
Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/New Zealand Youth Choir
Benjamin Northey, conductor

Programme Note

2015 sees the one-hundred year anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. In two parts, War Music reflects on the horrors of war in the first part, contrasted with a solemn memorial in the second. I was humbled on many occasions on writing a piece that commemorates those who were confronted by such a terrifying experience – I could only begin to imagine what it would have been like in reality. This produced the profound difficulty of trying to express the suffering and tragedy of war in purely musical terms. Added to this are the complexities of the myths and legends that surround the Gallipoli story. I therefore concentrated on the more broader aspects of war, hence the title.
The first part attempts to portray the brutality of war. It begins with a soft bass drum that unrelentingly thumps away in the background as the opening foreboding material unfolds. This breaks out into a torrent of cascading notes over low brass and strings. The music then settles in for a period of calm that slowly and continuously builds towards a more torrid outburst. This is followed by “screaming” glissando strings set against discordant winds. Then from out of the dissonance emerges a very soft minor chord. These final moments are a very oblique reference to the slow funeral-march movement of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony. In the second part, the orchestral forces have been considerably reduced, representing the great loss of life that war brings. There is however the addition of a choir.
The text by Paul Kelly, is set from the point of view of the diggers who died at Gallipoli. It is a poignant and powerful reminder of the travesty of young lives needlessly cut short.

To borrow or purchase the score from the Australian Music Centre click here

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