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Songs of the South : for mezzo-soprano and piano

by Scott McIntyre (2014)

Work Overview

The idea for Songs of the South occurred during the writing of my opera, Fire on the Snow, during 2010-2012, which dealt with similar themes. Fire on the Snow was adapted from the Douglas Stewart play of the same name that told of the trials and tribulations of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's tragic Antarctic voyage during the heady days of the early twentieth century's Age of Heroic Exploration.
A colleague of mine, Dr Carolyn Philpott and her friend, Dr Elizabeth Leane had done extensive research on the sledging songs made up by members of various expeditions. Boredom, hard work and lack of entertainment encouraged these hardy folk to make up songs and ditties, which they quite likely sung, to popular tunes and songs of the day. Few of the songs had music composed for them so an idea formed wherein I would attempt to provide some musical context for these tuneless creations.
This collection of songs are by no means meant to reconstruct or attempt to provide an answer for what they would have sounded like but instead focus on cultural references, through quotation and allusion, attempting to instead, place the texts in a context akin to music of the time. Also these songs have been constructed in a serial method of composition. I started with the Omnibus progression, which I then transformed through various filters into different chords. I subsequently converted these chords to ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chords. The idea was to echo music from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century but give it a more contemporary edge. As serial pieces tend not to follow traditional patterns of expected progressions nevertheless the traces of the omnibus pattern can still be discerned.
During the writing of my opera and these songs, I couldn't shake the sense of loss, isolation and humility which these men would have had to live with everyday so even during the most light hearted of lyrics the music still retains a melancholic air.

Work Details

Year: 2014

Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano, piano.

Duration: 20 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: 1. Northern Party  -   2.  The Sledging Song -   3. Southward (Ballade) -   4. Christmas Day on the trail -   5. Basilisk.

Dedication note: for Jane & Jennifer

Commission note: Composed with assistance from C-Domain and the University of Tasmania

First performance: by Jane Edwards, Jennifer Marten-Smith at Songs of the South (Conservatorium Recital Hall (Hobart)) on 10 May 2014


Performances of this work

10 May 2014: at Songs of the South (Conservatorium Recital Hall (Hobart)). Featuring Jane Edwards, Jennifer Marten-Smith.

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