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Songs for the shadowland

Sheet Music: Score

Songs for the shadowland : for soprano, wind quartet and piano / Paul Stanhope ; text by Oodgeroo Noonuccal.

by Paul Stanhope (1999)

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  • Library Availability: 783.66547/STA 2 — Available for loan
  • Instrumentation: Soprano, oboe, clarinet in B flat, bassoon, horn in F, piano.
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  • Audio Sample

    Performance by Margaret Schindler, Southern Cross Soloists from the CD Songs for the shadowland


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In Songs for the Shadowland I have set three mourning poems by indigenous Australian poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal: Tree Grave, Song and Dawn Wail for the Dead. These mourning poems are both deeply moving and also full of other resonances to do with the poet's Aboriginality. The poems give us an insight into the extraordinary importance placed by Aboriginal cultures on ancestry and respect for the dead. The allusions to a funeral ceremony in Tree Grave is a reminder of the profound cultural expression inherent in traditional indigenous mortuary rites.

In all three texts the poet manages to express with remarkable subtlety and understatement of emotion the devastation at the loss of loved ones, suggesting also the deep hurt caused by the onslaught of European colonisation. Despite the sombre quality of the deeply felt word images, the poet finds moments of optimism which seem triumphant against the backdrop of sadness. The poet's restraint of language and use of simple forms makes these statements all the more powerful.

A wailing horn interlude between the 2nd and 3rd songs functions as pond of reflection and musical commentary. It also plants seeds for musical ideas that follow in the third song. In this horn solo, natural harmonics and weeping glissandi act as a kind of ritual wailing which suggest the subject of the final poem. Although the echo of the wailing horn reminds us of past sorrow, it seems to me that Oodgeroo's own optimism for the "new day calling" has extra resonance now that, finally, a new Federal Government has started the healing process through the apology to the Stolen Generations.

Published by: Australian Music Centre — 1 facsimile score (28p. -- A4 (portrait))

Difficulty: Advanced

Duration: 15 mins

Contents note:

1. Tree grave -- 2. Song --  Interlude -- 3. Dawn wail for the dead.

Commissioned by Queensland Biennial Festival.

First performance by Southern Cross Soloists — 18 Jul 99. Queensland Art Gallery

Includes program note and full text.

Permission to be gained from Jacaranda Wiley Press before performing this work.

The second movement “Song” was added in 2001.

Typeset edition.

This edition produced Jan 15.

ISMN: 979-0-720130-35-4

Related products

This work is also available in the following products:

Songs for the shadowland
CD: Songs for the shadowland : vocal music / by Paul Stanhope.

CD: Australia / Southern Cross Soloists.

Songs for the Shadowland
CD: Songs for the Shadowland / Paul Stanhope.


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