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I cespugli verdi : for symphony orchestra

by Andrián Pertout (2019)

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Work Overview

'I cespugli verdi' or 'The Green Bushes' was commissioned by Robert Dora and the Australasian Orchestra (AO), and represents a Homage to Percy Grainger (1882-1961). The work adopts the English/Scottish folk song 'Green Bushes' (Roud #1040, Laws P2), which is featured in Percy Grainger's Green Bushes (1906) - "a passacaglia on an English folk-song collected in Somerset by Cecil Sharp." British musicologist Barry Peter Ould also notes: "With the exception of a momentary break, the 'Green Bushes' tune is heard constantly throughout the work pitted against a multitude of original counter-melodies. This setting was the first time a British folk-song had been treated in the passacaglia form, an innovation that Grainger avers led Delius to write his Brigg Fair and Dance Rhapsodies in a similar way." The popular folk tune is also utilized in the second movement of Ralph Vaughan Williams's English Folk Song Suite (1923) and George Butterworth's The Banks of Green Willow (1913).

In the tradition of American composer, pianist and theorist Henry Cowell (1897-1965) and his monumental publication of New Musical Resources (1930), the work explores a variety of compositional techniques developed during the twentieth century by American experimentalist composer Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) and documented by Kyle Gann in The Music of Conlon Nancarrow (1995). The melodic elements of English/Scottish folk song 'Green Bushes' also feature in the work, which are incorporated via a linear additive compositional process structured around tempo canons (or diminution canons, expressed as polyrhythmic ratios: 3/4/5/6) and a rhythmic sequence based on ouroborean rings for pairs (0111). According to Ian Stewart in Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities, "Around 1960 the American mathematician Sherman K. Stein discovered a curious pattern in the Sanskrit nonsense word yamátárájabhánasalagám. The composer George Perle told Stein that the stressed (á) and unstressed (a) syllables form a mnemonic for rhythms, and correspond to long and short beats. Thus the first three syllables, ya má tá, have the rhythm short, long, long. The second to fourth are má tá rá, long, long, long - and so on. There are eight possible triplets of long or short rhythms, and each occurs in the nonsense word exactly once. Stein rewrote the word using 0 for short and 1 for long, getting 0111010001. Then he noticed that the first two digits are the same as the last two, so the string of digits can be bent into a loop, swallowing its own tail. Now you can generate all possible sequences of three digits 0 and 1 by moving along the loop one space at a time: 011, 111, 110, 101, 010, 100, 000 and 001. I call such sequences ouroborean rings, after the mythical serpent Ouroboros, which eats its own tail. There is an ouroborean ring for pairs: 0011. It is unique except for rotations." For m-tuples generated via the two digits 0 and 1, the number of ouroborean rings is 1 for pairs; 2 for triplets; 16 for quadruplets; 2,048 for quintuplets; 67,108,864 for sextuplets; and 144,115,188,075,855,872 for septuplets.

Work Details

Year: 2019

Instrumentation: Piccolo, flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B flat, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in B flat, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (2 players), strings (

Duration: 7 min.

Difficulty: Medium

Dedication note: Homage to Percy Grainger (1882-1961)

Commission note: Commissioned by Australasian Orchestra, Robert Dora.

First performance: by Robert Dora, Australasian Orchestra — 28 Jul 19. Methodist Ladies College, Kew, Melbourne

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc associated with this work:

Percy Grainger (1882-1961), English/Scottish folk song ‘Green Bushes’ (Roud #1040, Laws P2), Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997), Binary number sequences


Performances of this work

28 Jul 19: Methodist Ladies College, Kew, Melbourne. Featuring Robert Dora, Australasian Orchestra.

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