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Bell and anti-bell : treble choir with chamber ensemble

by Brett Dean and Paul Healy (2001)

Bell and anti-bell


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Work Overview

Bell and Anti-Bell was commissioned as part of the Australian Chamber Orchestra's collaborative project "Parables, Lullabies and Secrets" for a national tour in July 2001. "Parables" involves contributions from 4 composers, a singer-songwriter and a sound designer with texts by the iconic Australian cartoonist-philosopher Michael Leunig. My composition Bell and Anti-Bell is the longest section from this ambitious joint venture and deals with the modern dilemma of increased automation and lack of personal contact in the guise of a pre-recorded, corporate telephone-answering service. For Leunig, the concept of being asked to "please hold, until an operator can assist you" takes on humorous, yet dark and philosophical dimensions (as Leunig himself describes it, a descent into madness and emotional mess). This is further emphasised by its juxtapositioning alongside an ironically placed hymn to truth and beauty entitled "Sweet Secret Peace" sung by the children's choir. This initially seems to be guiding us into more spiritual and ennobling waters ("real and right and true, how beautiful are you…") but eventually reveals itself to be nothing more than one of the machine's more elaborate holding patterns. Eventually the voice itself loses it's hold, and begins to question itself and everything around it.

© Brett Dean

Work Details

Year: 2001

Instrumentation: Children's choir, a chamber orchestra of strings, 2 harps and percussion, sampler and pre-recorded tape (on CD). Further instructions for an enhanced sound design element are optional.

Duration: 14 min.

Commission note: Commissioned as part of the Australian Chamber Orchestra's collaborative project "Parables, Lullabies and Secrets" for a national tour in July 2001

First performance: by Australian Chamber Orchestra, Gondwana Voices — 7 Jul 01. Melbourne Concert Hall

Performances of this work

7 Jul 01: Melbourne Concert Hall. Featuring Australian Chamber Orchestra, Gondwana Voices.

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