Voice of the depths : for piano, percussion and pre-recorded electronics
by Peter McNamara (2015)
Library shelf no. 785.3912/MCN 1 [Not for loan]
In 1939 Russell Keats, the eldest son of Australian composer Horace Keats, joined the Royal Australian Navy and was subsequently posted to the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra. Russell Keats served on the Canberra for the next three years, mostly on convoy patrol, but in 1942, the Canberra was sent to Savo Island in the pacific to provide assistance to the Gaudalcanal campaign against the Japanese. During the morning of August the 9th the Japanese fleet of battle ships launched a daring and unexpected raid on the allied fleet, during which HMAS Canberra was critically damaged, and scuttled later the same morning when she was deemed to be unsalvageable.
Tragically, Russell Keats was killed during the attack. His father and entire family was devastated by this event, and Horace Keats composed a very solemn and reflective song in memory of his son entitled Over the Quiet Waters.
Voice of the Depths is composed for piano, percussion and pre-recorded electronics, and follows the story of Russell Keats during his deployment on the HMAS Canberra. Spoken passages of text from the letters sent home to his family, read by his brother Brennan Keats, outline and initiate the structural points of the work. The pitches from the central motif of Over the Quiet Waters form its harmonic basis, and are used as fundamentals from which other pitch material is derived from their physical-acoustic properties.
These physical-acoustic properties are used to synthesise sounds in the electronic component of the work, and are re-enforced in the piano and vibraphone parts. A speaker is also directed into the piano internal mechanism to agitate the strings creating sympathetic vibrations at various points. This results in a subtle reverberation effect that blends with the electronic reverberation and creates deceptive tone colour transformations.
Instrumentation: Grand piano, percussion (1 player), pre-recorded electronics (stereo).
Duration: 14 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Challenging coordination between electronics and some challenging cross rhythms
First performance: at Sideband: The Fading of Culture and Memory (The Old Darlington School) on 2 Apr 2016
- In the form/style of: Spectral music
Performances of this work
23 Jul 2016: at Sideband: Homage (Mosman Art Gallery and Community Centre).
2 Apr 2016: at Sideband: The Fading of Culture and Memory (The Old Darlington School).
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