Program notes

Cloud Burning for winds, brass and percussion, opus 25 (1986)

Cloud Burning is a highly charged evocation of the surreal Queensland night sky during an electrical storm and takes its title from a poem by David Malouf called Elegy: The Absences (UQP, 1980).”You balloon above me, a big cloud burning with breath; a coolness settles on my skin.”

At the time of writing Cloud Burning I was living in London and this image of Malouf’s triggered quite strong recollections of the violent corruscations of the Brisbane night sky during an electrical storm and also – perhaps ironically – seemed an apt description of some of Turner’s outrageously livid paintings of the sky with which I had just become familiar first-hand. Malouf’s image is also about inner landscapes and the landscape of my piece is possibly more internal than descriptive.

The work is formed from the rhythmic exploration of a series of chords which function thematically as quite distinct and separate motifs. The shape of the work is a gradual accumulation of energy followed by an expansive ‘arrival’ – a shape that I employed on a larger scale in my opera Black River which was written soon afterwards. Cloud Burning is scored for winds, brass and percussion and was commissioned, with assistance from the Australia Council, by the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra for their tenth anniversary in 1986.

© Andrew Schultz, 1990