Program notes

Sea-Change for piano, opus 32 (1987)


Sea-Change was composed in 1987 at a house near the beach in Wombarra on the Illawarra coast, south of Sydney. The work was commissioned by Bernard Lanskey with financial assistance from the Music Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. Bernard gave the premiere of the work in June 1987 at Australia House in London. Sea-Change  is about 15 minutes duration.


Composer’s Note

It is hard to say the sea excites the imagination, without sounding clichéd. Yet its constant regeneration, its power, its myriad shapes and temporal patterns, and its dramatic changes of colour are for me, overwhelming and endlessly inspiring. As Shakespeare knew, the sea is also a metaphor for life and death.

Full Fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are corals made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him doth remain that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:


Hark! now I hear them, – ding-dong, bell.

[William Shakespeare, “Ariel’s Song,” The Tempest, Act I, Sc. ii]

Sea-Change has a simple shape of two peaks and a calm, but not settled, end. The piece is constructed from an initial impetus consisting of three slowly rotating harmonic sequences of different duration – one in the left hand and one in the right hand (both played in bell-like chords) and the third sequence moving through the piano’s mid-range as arpeggios. These sequences of harmony revolve around each other eventually enmeshing and evolving at key points in the work.


© Andrew Schultz,1987