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Insect songs (mezzo-soprano with guitar)

by Matthew Hindson (1998)

Audio Sample

Performance by Jenny Duck-Chong, Vladimir Gorbach from the CD Waves IV

Work Overview

Insects have been a fertile source of inspiration to some Australian composers, in particular Ross Edwards who has used the patterns of insect sounds within his compositions.

The two Insect Songs by Matthew Hindson take as their basis separate poems by Australian poets as their starting points.

The first movement, "Ants in the Shower Recess" (poem by Jamie Grant), takes many cues from the text on which it is based. Ants are described as "tiny, black-skinned warriors" who seem to be indestructible. Indeed, the point of the poem is that ants will be around much longer than the poet (or the composer).

The second song, "Cicadas at Night" (poem by Peter Skryznecki), parallels the life cycle of a cicada, emerging from their seven year stage as a wriggling, squirming pupae to spend their brief above-ground life singing and reproducing.

Both song-settings utilize aspects of word painting, especially with the guitar writing. The sounds of scurrying ants and incessant cicadas are portrayed throughout the relevant songs. They are dominantly lyrical works, though rhythmically quite challenging for the performers.

Work Details

Year: 1998

Instrumentation: Mezzo soprano, guitar

Duration: 11 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: i. Ants in the shower recess -- ii. Cicadas at night.

Dedication note: Dedicated to Jeannie Marsh, Ken Murray

Commission note: Commissioned with funds provided by Australia Council.


Matthew Hindson on recording "Insect Songs" - In conversation with...

In this series we talk with composers about their craft, their process, their influences, and of course their approach to vocal writing. Built on long working relationships, the conversations have an ease of familiarity but also provide useful insights into each composer’s work, their relationship with Halcyon and the pieces that they have written for the ensemble. In association with the Australian Music Centre.



Performances of this work

12 Oct 2019: at In Nature (Summer Hill Church). Featuring Halcyon.

31 Aug 2019: at Extended Play (City Recital Hall). Featuring Halcyon.

15 Sep 2015: at Halcyon: Ditties (Wyselaskie Auditorium). Featuring Ken Murray, Jenny Duck-Chong.

19 Jun 2011: at Inside Out: music inspired by landscape, art and the natural world (Richmond Uniting Church).

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.
Ants in the Shower Recess and Cicadas at Night are the two songs that make up this collection, both with delightful, colourful texts (by Jamie Grant and Peter Skryznecki respectively) that are a gift to a performer. Hindson is known for his exciting use of rhythm, and it is rhythm that fuels the high energy levels of these songs, providing stimulating challenges for the performers, and an engaging experience for audiences. From the witty word painting and story- telling of the “comic horror story” of the ants, to the ecstatic, full-voiced lyricism of the cicadas when they emerge from 17 years underground for an orgy of sex, these are richly-rewarding songs to perform. They require advanced musical, technical, ensemble and performance skills from both performers, and a strong, dramatic vocal quality.
Jeannie Marsh