Sheet Music: Score
Port Kembla : for orchestra / John Peterson.
by John Peterson (1998)
This piece was written as my personal homage to my hometown of
Port Kembla, New South Wales and is a musical expression of my
own mixed feelings, both past and present, about this place. In
the 1960s and 1970's, Port Kembla, mainly because of the
steelworks that is situated there, was justifiably notorious as a
dirty, polluted and ugly place to live. Imbued with an almost
savage beauty, the vast conglomeration of rust-red coloured
buildings, blast furnaces, coking ovens and chimney stacks which
made up the steelworks was something completely at odds with the
surrounding environment, the Illawarra coastline having the
reputation as being one of the most beautiful in Australia. It is
my memory of this enormous industrial blight on an otherwise
scenic landscape that is described in the first section of this
piece. The music is dark and sombre and unfolds in a very
ritualistic manner representing not only the physical appearance
of the steelworks but also, perhaps, the shift-work ethic
(24-hour production) and the oppressive working conditions which
had an enormous impact on the many thousands of people who worked
In 1998, the steelworks at Port Kembla is a vastly different place. Increased use of automation and the installation of more efficient processes have made it much cleaner and more environmentally-friendly; it is still dominates the landscape but its influence over the surrounding areas is, in many ways, much less intrusive. There is still a sense of energy and power about this place but, to me, it has been tempered somewhat by the reduction in human involvement in the steel-making process. Thirty years ago, masses of people worked there, providing a human link between the industrial titan and the sprawling suburbs that surround it. Today, the steel mills are eerily silent with very little visible outside activity. Production continues, but fewer people are needed to control the manufacturing processes that now occur, for the most part, out of sight.
In the second half of this piece I have attempted to capture the spirit of industrial energy which was once pervasive there but which now exists, I believe, only as a memory for those who remember a time when people were proud of Port Kembla's achievements. Musically, the final moments of this piece are also tinged with a sense of regret reflecting my feelings about whether this place has indeed changed for the better.
Port Kembla is dedicated to the memory of my father.
Published by: Australian Music Centre — 1 facsimile score (75p. -- A4 (portrait))
Duration: 11 mins
Includes programme note.
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