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Ceremonial : for orchestra

by Brett Dean (2003)

Score Sample

View a sample of the score of this work

Audio Sample

From the CD Works for orchestra [or] large ensemble

Works for orchestra [or] large ensemble


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Works for orchestra [or] large ensemble / Brett Dean.

Library shelf no. CD 1177 [Available for loan]



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Ceremonial : for orchestra / Brett Dean

Library shelf no. Q 784.2/DEA 4 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

Ceremonial was commissioned by Symphony Australia for the 75th Anniversary of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. Scored for a large orchestra, it is in one single movement of approximately 8 minutes in length.

Following the commencement of hostilities in Iraq in mid-March, 2003, I went for a walk through my neighborhood of Melbourne and was struck by the number of churches openly inviting passers-by to partake in a few moments of spontaneous personal prayer, which I felt unusually compelled to do. This was of a thoroughly apolitical nature, the church offering not only general prayers for peace, but also more specific prayers for both the innocent civilian victims of war and the safe return of our servicemen and women.

Just as churches, indeed religious buildings of any denomination, offer spaces of architectural and spiritual repose, balance and beauty, opening their doors in times of both turmoil and joy alike, so too is my Ceremonial perhaps best interpreted as a "space for thought and prayer", erected in this instance during a time of war; reflective slow music written in what I personally consider to be a darkly significant and portentous time, particularly in terms of the way future international relations may well be conducted. I have also strived quite consciously to balance the sense of foreboding apparent in the opening of my piece (with its pulsating piano, basses and drums) with moments of transparency and light.

The work was originally conceived as a form of memorial music in the aftermath of the Bali bombing in October 2002. In this sense, the prominent role accorded to tuned percussion, particularly gongs, pays homage to the moving memorials and traditional ceremonies held on Bali following that tragedy. I finally completed the scoring however between February and mid-March 2003 against the backdrop of daily developments in the worsening Iraq crisis, finishing the final pages as the first bombing raids took place on Baghdad, placing forever the significance of the events on Bali into an altogether different context.

© Brett Dean, April, 2003

Work Details

Year: 2003

Instrumentation: 3 flutes (2nd and 3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd doubling cor anglais), 2 clarinets in B flat, bass clarinet in B flat, 2 bassoons, contra-bassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion (4 players), harp, celesta, piano, strings (min.

Duration: 8 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Commissioned by Symphony Australia for performance by West Australian Symphony Orchestra with funds provided by Australia Council.

First performance: by West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Matteus Bamert — 9 May 03. Perth Concert Hall

Performances of this work

9 May 03: Perth Concert Hall. Featuring West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Matteus Bamert.

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