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Port Kembla : for orchestra

by John Peterson (1998)

Score Sample

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Audio Sample

Performance by Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, David Porcelijn from the CD Australian Composers' Orchestral Forum, 1998.

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Australian Composers' Orchestral Forum, 1998.


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Australian Composers' Orchestral Forum, 1998.

Library shelf no. CD 541 [Available for loan]

Port Kembla


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Port Kembla : for orchestra / John Peterson.

Library shelf no. Q 784.2/PET 1 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

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 there.
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.

Work Details

Year: 1998

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, clarinet in B flat, bass clarinet, bassoon, contra-bassoon, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in C, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (1 player), harp, strings.

Duration: 11 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Composed for the Australian Composers' Orchestral Forum (ACOF) 1998

First performance: by Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, David Porcelijn — 13 Nov 98. Australian Composers Orchestral Forum, Odeon Theatre, Hobart


Performances of this work

13 Nov 98: Australian Composers Orchestral Forum, Odeon Theatre, Hobart. Featuring Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, David Porcelijn.

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