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Petit testament (duos: soprano, mezzo-soprano with piano)

by Elliott Gyger (2008)

Score Sample

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Audio Sample

Performance by Halcyon, Sally Whitwell from the CD From the hungry waiting country

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From the hungry waiting country


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From the hungry waiting country / Halcyon performs Elliott Gyger.

Library shelf no. CD 2970 [Available for loan]

Petit testament


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Petit testament / Elliott Gyger

Library shelf no. 783.12654/GYG 1 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

'Petit Testament', the last of the Ern Malley poems, is intimate and autobiographical in tone, at times veering perilously close to confessing the bogus nature of the author's identity. My setting re-enacts James McAuley's and Harold Stewart's dazzling feat of ventriloquism (two real poets masquerading as one fictional poet) in employing two voices to project a single musical line, slipping unpredictably between unison, heterophony and interior dialogue. The pitch material is derived from musical ciphers of the three poets' names. Coincidentally, my cipher for "Ern Malley" - spelled out by the harp at the very beginning - uses only the notes of a pentatonic scale (Pelog) strongly associated with
Indonesian gamelan music, a common trope in the self-conscious quest for Australian musical identity in the 1960s and 1970s.

Work Details

Year: 2008

Instrumentation: Soprano, mezzo-soprano, piano (or harp).

Duration: 9 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

First performance: by Halcyon — 1 Sep 09. The Mint, Sydney

Performances of this work

10 Sep 2016: at Halcyon: The Poet's Voice (St Bede's Anglican Church, Drummoyne). Featuring Halcyon.

16 May 2011: at Where the Heart Is (Melba Hall). Featuring Halcyon.

13 Sep 2010: at Where the Heart Is.. a celebration of homegrown music (Carriageworks). Featuring Halcyon.

7 Sep 2010: at Where the Heart Is.. a celebration of homegrown music (Llewellyn Hall ANU School of Music). Featuring Halcyon.

1 Sep 09: The Mint, Sydney. Featuring Halcyon.

User reviews

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My favourite Australian art song repertoire

Posted by Australian Music Centre on 22 July, 2013

The AMC asked leading practitioners to select their favourite Australian art song repertoire, to provide delegates to the 2013 International Conference of Vocal Teachers (Brisbane 2013) with an introduction to this rich and diverse landscape.
A tour-de-force for both singers and pianist, this work requires great skills in ensemble, intonation and rhythm. Written for the University of Melbourne’s Ern Malley Songs project (http://lyrebirdpress.com/music/australiana/lbp012/), the singers’ lines mirror the two Australian poets who masqueraded as the fictitious poet Ern Malley. At times they present as one voice, singing virtuosic unisons and individual fractured syllables to deliver the text.  At others they shadow or comment on each other and share rich melismatic duo lines.  While fiercely demanding of the performers it is a very satisfying work to both learn and perform but it does take time to settle into the subtly changing tempos.

beautiful orchestration

Posted by Paul Cutlan [] on 15 September, 2010

I really enjoyed Halcyon's performance of this work at Carriage Works. It sounded clear in the space and the timbral ideas really came through in the performance. I was inspired by the use of two voices, the way they punctuated or continued each other, as well as the different dynamic levels, sudden non vibrato notes and hums. Each technique was a way to vary the texture and colour the melodic line, rather than draw attention to itself. It felt like orchestration.