Acquisition : full orchestra
by Elliott Gyger (2016)
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It is listed in our catalogue because an event featuring a performance of this work was included in our calendar of Australian music. Details of this performance are listed below.
Part 1 of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring closes with a vibrantly rhythmic section usually known as The Dance of the Earth. The original Russian title, however, has more complex undertones: its literal translation is The Acquisition of the Earth by Dancing. Humanity's relationship to the Earth, portrayed elsewhere in the ballet in terms of reverence and awe, here takes on a distinctly proprietorial character. Indeed, the word "acquisition", at first blush scientifically neutral, has proven extremely versatile as a euphemism for a range of predatory human behaviours - rampant consumerism, black-market transactions, repossession of mortgaged property, hostile corporate takeovers, colonization, military occupation - and our treatment of the planet we live on seems deeply tainted by the same mindset.
This work is both a meditation on these darker aspects of human nature, and a creative response to Stravinsky's towering masterpiece. It draws particularly on three elements from The Rite: its amazingly inventive writing for the woodwind, individually and in groups; the use of the orchestra to create powerful blocks of sound which are rapidly juxtaposed or stacked up in layers; and the unerring sense of formal progression, especially in Part 1, whereby energy builds across a series of distinct sections and tempi.
Acquisition is shaped as a single accumulation across the first twelve of its thirteen sections. It begins quietly, at moderate tempo in the mid-range with clarinets and harps. Subsequent sections become progressively longer, faster, louder, denser and more aggressive, and occupy more and more of the orchestra's pitch range. The "dancing" origins of Stravinsky's score inform the work's pulsing polyrhythms. There is no pause for breath until the closing pages, a traumatised reflection on what has come before.
Instrumentation: 3 Flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd doubling cor anglais), 3 clarinets in Bb (2nd doubling clarinet in Eb, 3rd doubling bass clarinet in Bb), 3 bassoons (3rd doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in C, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani (5 drums), percussion (3 players), 2 harps, strings (220.127.116.11.8).
Duration: 12 min.
- Inspired by: Ballet
Performances of this work
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