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Across the Top : suite in three movements

by Paul Cutlan (2012)

Score Sample

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Audio Sample

Performance by Paul Cutlan, Brett Hirst, The NOISE, Mara Kiek from the CD Across the Top

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Across the Top


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Across the Top / Paul Cutlan, Brett Hirst, The NOISE.

Library shelf no. CD 2668 [Not for loan]

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Work Overview

The melodic ideas for this suite were conceived during a tour with MARA! for Musica Viva in 2007. Labelled "Across the Top", this seven week tour saw the group performing for schools, communities and arts centres in W.A. Northern Territory and Queensland. One of the most striking parts of the journey was through the Pilbara and Kimberley, with their mineral rich red landscapes, vast plains, imposing ancient ranges and lush gorges. The sheer scale of the area and sparseness of human population were background influences to the composition of the suite.

Gibb River Road is a 660km dirt road linking the remote towns of Derby and Kununurra in W.A. The main elements of the composition are a long chromatically winding melody in 12/8, and a driving bass line derived from the AfroCuban Bembe rhythm. An elegaic interlude splits the movement in two, and introduces a slow melody in 3/2 which becomes the main theme in the third movement - Reconcile.

An improvised interlude featuring high string harmonics leads into the central movement - Lost Souls. The main theme in 6/4 has a dark, searching quality and is the springboard for an atmospheric viola and cello improvisation. An urgent and primal middle section interrupts, propelled by the Bulgarian Paiduschko 5/16 rhythm. A soprano sax improvisation leads into the final section, which starts to recapitulate both the 6/4 melody and the Paiduschko theme, before being interrupted by the more tranquil Reconcile melody. The darker themes prevail however, the Reconcile theme being parodied, before the remaining themes peter out, ending on a 'mystery' chord which becomes the signature sonority of the final movement.

A solo double bass improvisation leads into the slow finale in 3/2 Reconcile. Elements of the Gibb River Road melody are further developed, culminating in a neo Baroque passage for the two violins. Towards the end of the movement, all three main themes of the suite are combined in a pizzicato section, before a final statement of the Reconcile theme.

Work Details

Year: 2012

Instrumentation: Bass clarinet doubling soprano saxophone, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass.

Duration: 35 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Rhythmic independence

Contents note: I. Gibb River Road -- II. Lost Souls -- III. Reconcile.


Resonate article: Insight: Improvising and composing for The NOISE by Paul Cutlan


Across the Top Suite: Gibb River Road (Part 1)
Across the Top Suite: Gibb River Road (Part 2)
Across the Top: Lost Souls (Part 1)
Across The Top: Lost Souls (Part 2)
Across the Top Suite: Reconcile


Performances of this work

21 Jul 2018: at Winter Jazz: Paul Cutlan's String Project, Merge/Emerge (The Sound Lounge).

4 Dec 2016: at Paul Cutlan String Project (Paddington Uniting Church).

25 Nov 2016: at Paul Cutlan String Project (Blue Mountains Theatre).

3 Jul 15: Across the Top album Launch (SIMA), Soundlounge, Seymour Centre, Sydney. Featuring Liisa Palandi, Mara Kiek, Veronique Serret, James Eccles, Oliver Miller, Brett Hirst.

6 Nov 2012: at Cutloose Meets The NOISE (Venue 505).

10 Aug 2012: at Cutloose meets The NOISE (Recital Hall East). Featuring Skye McIntosh, Brett Hirst, Oliver Miller, Veronique Serret, James Eccles, Paul Cutlan.

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