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Rothko's red : full orchestra

by Becky Llewellyn (2003)

Audio Sample

Performance by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Luke Dollman from the CD Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 128.

Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 128.


This item is not commercially available from the Australian Music Centre. We regret that we cannot offer it for sale.


Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 128.

Library shelf no. CD 3185 [Available for loan]

Rothko's red


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Rothko's red / Becky Llewellyn.

Library shelf no. Q 784.2/LLE 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

The American painter Mark Rothko was known for painting canvases that each explored one colour. I have been lucky enough to see a few of these in my life and found them truly wondrous. In music, there could no better vehicle for evoking these same adjectives than the full orchestra.

Rothko's Red is an exploration of shifting perception and attention to pure sound colour. Rather than thinking of 'orchestral families', I am exploring 'pitch/tone families'. For instance, there is a continuous pedal note, passing between all the very low instruments - a deep vast rumble of the sea, the pedal note of red. The waves of colour move through various configurations, ever changing, like a kaleidoscope of shifting colour, yet always recognisable, always 'permanent.'

For the listeners, I hope this continuity throughout the piece will shift them into a deep sense of calm, then draw them into a journey deeper into the intensity of this coloured calmness. For the players, I hope they may enjoy expressing the 'redness' in their part, thereby creating beautiful subtleties of orchestral colour.

Work Details

Year: 2003

Instrumentation: Piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets in B flat, bass clarinet in B flat, 2 bassoons, contra-bassoon, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in B flat, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, harp, percussion (3 players), strings.

Duration: 7 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Commissioned by Graeme Koehne for performance by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

First performance: by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Luke Dollman — 12 Nov 03. Composer's Workshop, Grainger Studio, Adelaide

Klangfarbenmelodie is a musical technique that involves splitting a musical line or melody between several instruments, rather than assigning it to just one instrument (or set of instruments), thereby adding color (timbre) and texture to the melodic line. The technique is sometimes compared to "pointillism", a neo-impressionist painting technique.


Performances of this work

12 Nov 03: Composer's Workshop, Grainger Studio, Adelaide. Featuring Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Luke Dollman.

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