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The Saqqara Bird : for symphony orchestra

by Melody Eötvös (2016)

Saqqara Bird


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The Saqqara Bird : for symphony orchestra / Melody Eötvös.

Library shelf no. 784.2/EOT 3 [Available for loan]

Saqqara Bird

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Work Overview

There's something undeniably intriguing about events that happened, discoveries that were made, and literature that was written at the turn of the 20th century. Until recently I have been absorbed mostly by just the literature.

In 1898 an expedition took place in Saqqara, Egypt, during which a curious and confounding artefact was discovered. The object I am referring to is a bird-shaped relic made of sycamore wood. Due to a lack of period documentation, the function of the Saqqara Bird is completely unknown. Some hypothesize it is a ceremonial object, while others radically envision it is evidence that the Egyptians were dabbling in the principles of aviation. It has also been posited as a weather vane, an elite child's toy, some sort of boomerang, and as a featured carving on the masthead of a sacred boat.

This orchestral work places the Saqqara Bird at the intersection of all these theories in an imagined tapestry of the mechanical, the living, and the ancient becoming new again. By focusing on the 'engineered' side of this wooden carving as inspiration, I was able to invest a great deal more rhythmic and harmonic stability than usual into my music. A wonderful side effect of maintaining a clearly defined beat is that varied repetition more easily gives way to new, yet familiar, melodic ideas. So, while this piece is a more lyrical and thematically organized work which relies on motivic transformation to propel forward, I will say that it still aims to captures something imaginative and fictional in its Pinocchio-like metamorphosis.

Work Details

Year: 2016

Instrumentation: 2 Flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), oboe, cor anglais, 2 clarinets (2nd doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons (2nd doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in C, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (1 player), strings (

Duration: 8 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Commissioned by Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

First performance: by Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Marko Letonja — 5 Aug 16. Federation Concert Hall TAS


Resonate article: Philadelphia Orchestra to showcase a work by Melody Eötvös by Australian Music Centre

Performances of this work

5 Aug 16: Federation Concert Hall TAS. Featuring Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Marko Letonja.

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