Barren Grounds, opus 36 (1988)
- 1. . . . this ground
2. The Twittering Machine
South of Sydney, on the Illawarra escarpment overlooking the sea, Barren Grounds is a wilderness reserve and bird breeding area. With a strange and otherworldly landscape – stunted growth and marshy ground – the place feels still, yet the strange, eerie surface conceals a fecund underlife. For me, the place occupies a state of mind; this, rather than any programmatic intention, prompted the title.
Movement 1, is a slow, lyrical and sinewy reworking of a vocal piece, Seafarer, whose final line: “And learn to sleep upon this ground”, with its reference to mortality, suggested the passacaglia form used.
Paul Klee’s ornithological automaton painting, The Twittering Machine, gives Movement 2 its inspiration. The musical intention at times resembles an ungainly machine that keeps running awry and needs to be wound-up again. Spinning out rhythmic fragments and employing mosaic technique are recurrent preoccupations.
Barren Grounds is scored for for clarinet, viola, ‘cello and piano and was the inaugural work commissioned by Perihelion (an ensemble resident at the University of Queensland). Itwas composed with financial assistance from the Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council.
© Andrew Schultz, 1988