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Voice of the depths : for piano, percussion and pre-recorded electronics

by Peter McNamara (2015)

Audio Sample

Performance by Sideband from the CD Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 75.

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From the Depths


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Work Overview

In 1939 Russell Keats, the eldest son of Australian composer Horace Keats, joined the Royal Australian Navy and was subsequently posted to the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra. Russell Keats served on the Canberra for the next three years, mostly on convoy patrol, but in 1942, the Canberra was sent to Savo Island in the pacific to provide assistance to the Gaudalcanal campaign against the Japanese. During the morning of August the 9th the Japanese fleet of battle ships launched a daring and unexpected raid on the allied fleet, during which HMAS Canberra was critically damaged, and scuttled later the same morning when she was deemed to be unsalvageable.

Tragically, Russell Keats was killed during the attack. His father and entire family was devastated by this event, and Horace Keats composed a very solemn and reflective song in memory of his son entitled Over the Quiet Waters.

Voice of the Depths is composed for piano, percussion and pre-recorded electronics, and follows the story of Russell Keats during his deployment on the HMAS Canberra. Spoken passages of text from the letters sent home to his family, read by his brother Brennan Keats, outline and initiate the structural points of the work. The pitches from the central motif of Over the Quiet Waters form its harmonic basis, and are used as fundamentals from which other pitch material is derived from their physical-acoustic properties.

These physical-acoustic properties are used to synthesise sounds in the electronic component of the work, and are re-enforced in the piano and vibraphone parts. A speaker is also directed into the piano internal mechanism to agitate the strings creating sympathetic vibrations at various points. This results in a subtle reverberation effect that blends with the electronic reverberation and creates deceptive tone colour transformations.

Work Details

Year: 2015

Instrumentation: Grand piano, percussion (1 player), pre-recorded electronics (stereo).

Duration: 14 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Challenging coordination between electronics and some challenging cross rhythms

First performance: by Sideband at Sideband: The Fading of Culture and Memory (The Old Darlington School) on 2 Apr 2016


Performances of this work

23 Jul 2019: at TENOR 2019 (Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music - Building 68, Music Auditorium).

23 Jul 2016: at Sideband: Homage (Mosman Art Gallery and Community Centre).

2 Apr 2016: at Sideband: The Fading of Culture and Memory (The Old Darlington School). Featuring Sideband.

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