The drowning dream : for solo percussion
by Iain Grandage (2011)
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Library shelf no. 786.8/GRA 1 [Available for loan]
One still morning in 1902, on a beach just south
of Fremantle, a man rode his horse into the motionless waters of
the Indian Ocean, dismounted and turned to face the rising sun.
His body, gunshot wound to the mouth, was discovered shortly
after, floating at the shoreline. That man was C.Y. O'Connor,
Engineer-in-Chief of Western Australia and driving force behind
three great Western Australian feats of engineering - Fremantle
Harbour, Mundaring Weir and the Goldfields Pipeline.
The Drowning Dream is a response to the circumstances of C.Y. O'Connor's life and death - from exacting control via paralysing anxiety to a final, submerged calm.
The work's scoring is dominated by metal percussion instruments - vibraphone, 9 pieces of resonant metal and 3 tubular bells are supplemented with 6 pieces of resonant wood, a drum and a luminescent bowl of water. The resonance of his three great feats of engineering is reflected both in the groupings of instruments (and their metal-piped timbres) and also in the pitch collections, tone rows, rhythmic figurations and structures of the work. During the latter stages, tubular bells, each rigged independently, are slowly raised and lowered into water troughs, creating glissandi of evocative beauty. To control these, the performer must manipulate ropes hooked to his arms, creating puppet-like illusions and intimating at forces beyond his control. The real tragedy of C.Y. O'Connor's plight lies in that image - a remarkably gifted man driven to death by his masters (both
politicians and members of the press gallery) - people who only shared their glowing respect for him publically once he had taken his own life.
The melodic material is dominated by a tone row made entirely of the 5th and the semitone with a secondary descending semitone figuration dominating the latter section. The tension between semitone and 5th, between compression and stasis never fully resolves, imbuing the work with a constant sense of unease and disquiet. Texturally, the work contains huge contrasts between moments of woozy, quiet solitude and frenetic, dense madness. It is in arch form, ending as it begins, with a quiet evocation of the beach - the recapitulation, however, alluding to the presence of a fresh ghost from that summer dawn over a century ago.
Instrumentation: Vibraphone, 9 metal objects, 6 wooden objects, 3 tubular bells (E, A, B), 1 drum (Orch bass drum or Floor Tom or Kick Drum, or a combination), troughs of water.
Duration: 10 min.
Dedication note: "For Paul and Cath"
Commission note: Commissioned by Ian Potter Cultural Trust for performance by Paul Tanner.. Commissioned by the Ian Potter Cultural Trust for Paul Tanner for performance in the Fremantle Arts Centre’s soft soft loud chamber music series
Performances of this work
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