Program notes

Music is a gentle hammer (1991)

Music is a gentle hammer is a short work for voices accompanied by a bass note drone. I composed the words and music in 1991 with the intention of creating a work that could be sung by groups of singers of almost any size and with almost any range of musical experience and background.

The work is freely notated with the singers tracking their path through the slow moving and gentle notes of the music in an improvisatory and collaborative manner. Like all good improvisations a successful performance relies on both individual willingness and collective ability to contribute to an overall sound world. I think the words of the piece speak to the same idea of collaboration: ‘music is a gentle hammer for breaking down walls’.

The piece is notated in free, long notes and is diatonic over a sustained low E flat that can be performed by any sustaining instrument or even sung by a low voice or voices. The slow vocal slides in the work contribute to a horizon of shimmering sound that can be enhanced by positioning the performers to take advantage of the varying acoustic possibilities of the performance space.

Music is a gentle hammer was originally published in a LaTrobe Uni Press anthology of music for improvisers edited by Jeff Pressing but now out of print. Wirripang have recently released the work again in their collection, Out of Time, edited by Diana Blom and Brett McKern.

© Andrew Schultz, 2020