Program notes

Peace for orchestra, opus 93 (2013)

Peace was written in 2013 for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and their new chief conductor, Marko Letonja, for concerts in Hobart and Burnie. The work takes its title from one of JMW Turner’s most well-known paintings, Peace – Burial at Sea (1842). The painting commemorates the burial at sea of a friend of the artist and shows a dark ship with black sails surrounded by glassy sea, a luminous sky and a distant tower or lighthouse. In the centre of the painting is an eye-catching eruption of mysterious light through the bow of the ship.

The ‘peace’ of the title is not like the modern sense of personal peace – namely, deep tranquility.  It is more the kind of unsettled, peaceful aftermath that exists in contrast to violence and brutality. Indeed, Turner’s painting was paired with another painting, entitled War, which depicts Napoleon in exile.

Like Turner’s painting, my work plays on effects of closeness and distance and darkness and light. The piece is mostly very subdued and quiet in its outer sections with a central passage of greater force and brilliance. Peace quietly references the funeral marches of the period but often adds an additional beat to each second bar.  The normal duple time of a march is replaced by a continual pattern of 4/4 + 5/4 – as though the march hesitates at the end of each second bar.

As it happens, I wrote my Peace immediately after another short orchestral work, August Offensive – a very fast, virtuosic and violent work commissioned for the centenary of the ANZAC Gallipoli campaign by the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs. At some point the two pieces, performed together, could form an effective diptych.

© Andrew Schultz, 2013.