Program notes

Chant – Tupukur ulute, opus 118 (2023)

Chant – Tupukur ulute is a short, fast and joyous work for solo soprano voice, solo soprano saxophone and orchestra. It was commissioned to commemorate the East Timor independence struggle and featured in the 2023 Peacekeeping Symphony commissioned by the Flowers of Peace and the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

The piece is based on an ancient Fatuluku children’s circle-game chant from Lautein, East Timor as documented in Ros Dunlop’s book, Sounds of the Soul – Lian Husi Klamar, 2013. There is apparently no fully accurate translation for the text which is in a largely lost language. My own amateur linguistic research with an old Fatuluku dictionary from Portugal held in the Library of Congress in Washington suggests that it celebrates the rhythms of corn husking. But the chant is apparently still used by children in a fast-paced circle game with graphic hand and face actions as well as the virtuosic patter text.

Chant – Tupukur ulute is dedicated to the amazing energy and courage of the people of East Timor. That spirit of vibrant energy and optimism has inspired the work. The work was written in the first half of 2023 at Harvard University and in Bronte, Sydney.


Tupukur ulute

Tupukur ulute
rulu ina maite
ina mata pua tei
puasaka ta’te
keikelilino lele valu valun
lele nita pokite, poki nita kaite.

Cele cuku, cele cuku, leu ta’tate Leu ta’tate, poko ta’tate
Kaile, kakile, kesume, em ura.

[Traditional children’s chant as quoted in Ros Dunlop, Sounds of the Soul – Lian Husi Klamar, 2013 and used with permission.]


Listen to a MIDI recording of Chant – Tupukur ulute