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Program note: Peter Tahourdin's "Look at the Stars"

  • © Peter Tahourdin
  • Source: Produced for and provided by Melbourne Composer's League

Peter Tahourdin


Look at the Stars

for flute, clarinet, violoncello and marimba (2006)


Peter Tahourdin was born in southern England in 1928 and studied at TrinityCollege of Music in London after his discharge from the British army in1948. He came to Australia in 1964 and was appointed Visiting Composerto Adelaide University the following year. In 1973 he moved to Melbourne,where he taught composition and 20th century music studies in the Faculty of Music at Melbourne University until his retirement at the age of sixty, when he devoted himself entirely to composition. Tahourdin’s music covers a wide range, from orchestral (five symphonies) and electronic music, to music for the theatre (two operas since his retirement from the university) and chamber music.


Look at the Stars is in three interconnected sections – A’, B, A2 – of which the middle section (B) is in triple, rather than duple, time and is more than twice the speed of the outer sections. The title is taken from the first line of a poem, The Starlight Night, by Gerard Manley Hopkins – ‘Look at the stars! Look, look, look up at the skies!’ – which provided the text for Raga Music 1, a work for soprano and small ensemble that I composed in 1985 after a visit to India; it was the first of a series of chamber works based on the structural procedures of the Hindustani (north Indian) raga. The poem particularly appealed to me because of the manner in which it mixes the mystical and the mundane aspects of life. But thematic elements, too, of the music of Raga Music 1 appear in Look at the Stars, particularly in the last section (A2). Another source of inspiration was undoubtedly a trip to Greece in 1984, during which I visited the ruins of an ancient temple to the god Poseidon, perched on top of a steep cliff at Cape Sounion, the southernmost tip of Attica, overlooking the
dark waters of the Aegean Sea. What a site on which to build a temple to the God of the Sea! A further image that has stayed in my mind as a result of that sojourn in Greece was of the sun setting over the Aegean, which I witnessed several times on the island of Ios – one of the Cyclades group – and of the clarity of the night sky after the sun had set. While Look at the Stars is a purely
musical (and non vocal) work, lasting a little over ten minutes, it does attempt to suggest something of the mysticism inherent in the world around us.


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