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Return to the Centre : for orchestra

by Stephen Holgate (1993)

Audio Sample

Performance by Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Peter Bandy from the CD Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 145

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Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 145


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Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 145 / Stephen Holgate.

Library shelf no. CD 3262 [Available for loan]

Return to the centre


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Return to the centre : for orchestra / Stephen Holgate.

Library shelf no. Q 784.2/HOL 5 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

Return to the Centre takes its title from the autobiographical book by Benedictine monk Bede Griffiths, in which he searches for an integration of Christian and Eastern religious and mystical traditions, arguing that we must learn to "... explore the inner space within the heart, to make that long and difficult journey to the Centre, to the inner depth and height of being ..." (p.103). A parallel impetus for the work was a family road trip to Australia's geographical (and perhaps spiritual) centre - to the iconic Uluru and Katajuta, both of which have mysterious spiritual qualities. The initial impulse then is the idea of pilgrimage in both a spiritual and a physical sense - but the music does not follow a 'program' as such. Rather, it explores various associated moods and dispositions: distraction, centredness, mystery, sorrow, tranquillity and awe.

The work is in three movements:

I Return to the Centre

II Kyrie - valley of the winds

III On a dark night, kindled in love - John of the Cross

Significantly, together with Holgate's other concert works from this period, Return to the Centre explores the integration and juxtaposition of conventionally based musical language ('macro' level of melody and harmony) with contemporary textural ideas and techniques. At times, the work transitions into the 'micro' or interior level of sound itself - reflecting Holgate's interest in musical 'timbre' or colour and the influence of composer mentor Barry Conyngham, and specifically the so-called 'spectral' or 'sound synthesis' techniques of innovative new-generation French composers Tristan Murail and Gerard Grisey, who were leaders at the 1980 Darmstadt International Summerschool of New Music in Germany, attended by Holgate. Broadly speaking, complex acoustic phenomena such as the overtone spectra, modulation, filters, formants etc (which contribute to the differences in naturally occurring sounds) are orchestrated or synthesized using acoustic instruments to create a dynamic web of evolving textures and sonic clusters, frequently fused together by the precise use of percussion and multiphonics (special complex sounds) produced on woodwind.

Work Details

Year: 1993

Instrumentation: 3 Flute, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contra-bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion (2 players), timpani, strings.

Duration: 18 min.

Difficulty: Medium

Contents note: I. Return to the Centre -- II. Kyrie - valley of the winds -- III. On a dark night ... kindled in love.

Commission note: Commissioned by Melbourne Youth Music Council for performance by Melbourne Youth Orchestra with funds provided by Australia Council. Performing Arts Board.

First performance: by Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Peter Bandy — 7 Nov 93. Great Hall, National Gallery of Victoria

The composers notes the following influences, genres, themes, etc. associated with this work:
pilgrimage; spirituality; Uluru; Katajuta; spectralism; sound synthesis; Gerard Grisey; Tristan Murail; mystical; Bede Griffiths.

Performances of this work

7 Nov 93: Great Hall, National Gallery of Victoria. Featuring Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Peter Bandy.

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