Sound lur and serpent is a short work that taps into the mythology and drama of brass and percussion and their use to signal, warn and celebrate. The work was commissioned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and their Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, David Robertson, for the orchestra’s 2014 tour of China. The work was composed during a period as an artist in residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris in April 2014.
Sound lur and serpent. Strike drum and gong. Run! Fire breathes to swallow. Flee, while flee you can.
In 2010 I came across the wonderful collection of ancient musical instruments in the Deutsches Museum in Munich which includes a Lur from the Bronze Age and some more recent Serpents. The Lur and Serpent are old brass instruments with extraordinary primal shapes drawing on the horns of great beasts and the curves of snakes. Whilst at the Museum I wrote the above short poem in my sketchbook and made a note, “Lur and Serpent – a good starting point for a fanfare.”
A few months before that, in November 2009, the weather bureau had issued Australia’s first Catastrophic bushfire danger rating. The ratings of High, Very High, Severe and Extreme were no longer enough to cope with the continual and terrifyingly increasing presence of summer bushfires in the world’s driest inhabited continent. The two things – the presence of fire and the signalling power of brass and percussion – have merged in my mind to lead to this piece.