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Trying to catch a Will-o'-the-Wisp : for violin and vibraphone

by Robert McIntyre (2023)

Work Overview

It is said in Scottish folklore and legend that Will-o'-the-Wisps are mischievous spirits which lead travellers off the beaten path to 'change your fate.' Scientifically, they are an actual phenomenon of earthy swamp vapours that have mixed with natural resources to create phosphorescence evocative of blue flames.

This commission also tasked me with holding space for one of the four seasons in line with Avelyn's recital theme. My given season was 'Autumn', which I coincidentally find to be my favourite, particularly being born in May. I took colouristic inspiration from BoĢˆcklin's 1882 painting and combined it into a sound-world loosely drawing on 'Into the Open Air' sung by Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis for initial compositional material.

Being half-Scottish myself, I wanted to draw on the Wisps' meaning, particularly in the lens from Disney's Pixar movie 'Brave', where their duality of being either good or evil still helps lead oneself in the direction of where they need to go, despite any adversity.

We often try to change our fate, who we are and who we think we ought to be, yet these temptations and longings more often actually help us realise who we already truly are, what we value and how remarkable embracing that is, so we may grow.

It is often the moments out of our control that define us in the most meaningful ways, so it is my hope that Avelyn holds her vibrant individuality tightly in her hands and witness how destiny follows.

Work Details

Year: 2023

Instrumentation: Violin, vibraphone.

Duration: 3 min.

Difficulty: Medium — VCE / HSC Level

Dedication note: Dedicated to Avelyn as a reminder of her promising talent & future as a musician.

Commission note: This work was generously commissioned by Mentone Grammar School for Avelyn Reynolds' 2023 VCE Music Performance 3/4 Violin Recital, supported by faculty teachers Lidia Mancini, Natalie Morgenstern, and Gavin Cornish.

First performance: 30 Nov 23. Mentone Grammar School, VIC

Performances of this work

30 Nov 23: Mentone Grammar School, VIC

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