In orbit : large chamber ensemble
by James Ledger (2011)
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In Orbit is written for two similar, but not identical sextets that are split left and right on the stage. The first sextet consists of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, double bass and piano. I thought of the second sextet as a kind of 'broken' ensemble to the first and it includes players doubling on recorders and a piano that is detuned to give it a kind of other-worldly sound.
The initial thoughts for this piece came from the surprising and often disturbing way the media can act in today's society. We have all seen images of a media scrum circling around a celebrity or politician. I thought that this was analogous to the thousands of satellites and pieces of space junk that orbit the earth. The structure of the piece reflects this - there are four smaller 'satellite' movements surrounding the large fourth movement entitled Endless Circus. In this movement, the second sextet circles around and harasses the first as if a media pack were hounding a celebrity.
The remaining movements all have astronomical titles. The final fifth movement called "Death of a Star" has a purposefully ambiguous title meaning either - star in the astronomical sense, or star as in popular celebrity.
Instrumentation: Sextet 1: Flute (doubling piccolo), clarinet in B flat (doubling bass clarinet), violin, cello, double bass, piano.Sextet 2: Flute (doubling piccolo, alto flute, treble and tenor recorders), clarinet in B flat (doubling bass clarinet and tenor recorder), violin, cello, percussion (1 player: vibraphone, 2 suspended cymbals (small & large), tam-tam, bass drum, 2 bongos), piano.
Duration: 17 min.
Contents note: 1. Towards the sun -- 2. Five thousand tonnes of space junk -- 3. The cold dark moon -- 4. Endless circus -- 5. Death of a star.
Commission note: Commissioned by Australian National Academy of Music.
Performances of this work
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