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Chorale, Demon, Beacon (1995)

Chorale, Demon, Beacon is a twelve minute work scored for the 17 string bass koto and percussion quartet. The players are arranged across the stage from left to right: Percussion 4 – Percussion 2 – Bass Koto – Percussion 1 – Percusssion 3. The ‘outer’ percussionists play untuned percussion to a large extent whilst the first and second players play mostly on vibraphones.

As a student in Brisbane I can recall looking in the evening at the four television towers that were perched on Mt Coot-tha. Each had a flashing light as a beacon and each light ran at a different pulse constantly changing in their overall relation to one another as they progressed in their independent cycles. Whimsically, it crossed my mind once or twice that if ever the beacons coincided something special should happen (a cosmic event or at least a good TV mini-series for example) and perhaps it did because Brisbane has changed and is no longer so quiet in the evenings.

That idea of separate but very slow pulses which rarely if ever intersect has provided the basis for a number of my pieces. In this work it is treated as the background for the development of a few fragments of material: a hymn-like phrase (heard throughout but most clearly at the end), a melodic phrase which opens the piece and various solos, duets and trios for the koto and two vibraphones. Percussion 3 and 4 play bass drums, a Korean gong and a tam tam in slow pulses doubled by bass notes in the koto; when two pulses happen at once phrases change, when three happen at once a new section starts, when all four coincide (once in the piece) things are turned on their head.

Chorale, Demon, Beacon was commissioned by Synergy Percussion for Synergy and Kazue Sawai with funding assistance from the Australia Council . The piece was composed in June and July 1995 and, in part, whilst in residence at the Leighton Studios, Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada.

 

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