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A feather on the breath of God : for shakuhachi and harp

by Anne Boyd (2002)

Score Sample

View a sample of the score of this work

Audio Sample

Performance by Lamorna Nightingale, Jocelyn Fazzone from the CD Spirit of the plains

This sample is of the Flute with piano version of this work

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Spirit of the plains


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Spirit of the plains : Australian flute music 1997-2013 / Christine Draeger, Lamorna Nightingale, Jocelyn Edey Fazzone.

Version: This product features the Flute with piano version of this work

Library shelf no. CD 2486 [Available for loan]

feather on the breath of God

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A feather on the breath of God : for shakuhachi (or flute) and harp / Anne Boyd.

Library shelf no. 785.4412/BOY 2 [Available for loan]

Display all products featuring this work (1 more)  

Work Overview

Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th century mystic, described herself as "but a feather on the breath of God" - a spiritual state with to which I aspire. For me, the traditional music for the shakuhachi represents the highest stage in music's spiritual evolution. Of all the music created by human kind, it also seems to bear the closest connection to the great beauty of the earth itself. Hildegard revered the Earth as a Mother - "The Earth is the Mother of All, for contained in her are the seeds of All".

The original version of this work was composed for shakuhachi and harp, dedicated to the memory of the late Professor Sir Peter Platt, Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Sydney until his death in August 2000. Peter was an esteemed and much loved colleague, an all round musician and scholar of enormous breadth and depth of outlook, one of Music's true saints.

In the shorter version for flute and piano, each instrument is assigned a narrative role: the flute line represents the floating feather; the piano represents God's creative spirit. At the beginning of the work the feather lies languishing on the earth, feeling herself but not knowing quite what to do. The piano's arpeggios, rising from deep in the earth, release energy that, like the wind, lifts the feather into flight.

The two enact a tiny moment of ecstatic playful dance before the feather flies free describing a joyful journey high in the air. Gently the feather descends back to the earth and a state of rest, ready to fly once more. The music is completely non-teleological - it represents a tiny moment in an eternal cycle and is essentially time for meditation and prayer.

Work Details

Year: 2002

Instrumentation: Shakuhachi (or flute), harp.

Duration: 10 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Dedication note: In memory of Peter Platt

Commission note: Written for Riley Lee and Marshall MGuire

Performances of this work

31 Aug 2017: at Forgotten (National Portrait Gallery). Featuring Virginia Taylor, Alice Giles.

29 Sep 2013: at Spirit of the Plains CD launch (The Flute Tree).

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