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Iron in the blood : music inspired by Robert Hughes' 'The Fatal Shore'

by Jeremy Rose (2015)

Score Sample

View a sample of the score of this work

Audio Sample

Performance by Earshift Orchestra, Jeremy Rose, Philip Quast, William Zappa from the CD Iron in the blood

Iron in the blood


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Iron in the blood


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Iron in the blood : music inspired by Robert Hughes' 'The Fatal Shore' / Jeremy Rose.

Library shelf no. 784.48/ROS 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

'Iron in the Blood: A Musical Adaptation of Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore' is an extended suite for jazz orchestra and two narrators. The work traces Australia's founding through Britain's colonial experiment against a backdrop of incomprehensible hardship. The music follows a narrative of the convicts journey from slavery to freedom, along with the displacement and near destruction of its indigenous population. Rose was motivated along similar lines to Hughes' own desire to investigate the origin of Australia's cultural characteristic and how these experiences have helped shape modern Australia. "His account of Australia's convict system, The Fatal Shore, is probably the best read Australian history. It exposed in Bob's compelling prose the sadistic brutality bound up in our nation's founding-a system that not only dispossessed and all but destroyed the native people but then flogged and tortured the prisoners it had brought to the other end of the world" (Malcolm Turnbull, 2012). The music utilises many influences, from Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Igor Stravisnky, Peter Sculthorpe and Olivier Messiaen, coupled with Rose's background in contemporary classical music, jazz, afrobeat and Indian classical music. This project was assisted by The Australia Council for the Arts, and was released by Jeremy Rose and the Earshift Orchestra on ABC Jazz, June 2016.

Work Details

Year: 2015

Instrumentation: 2 Narrators, 2 alto/soprano saxophones (one doubling flute and piccolo), 2 tenor saxophones (one doubling alto clarinet), baritone saxophone (doubling bass clarinet), 4 trumpets (all doubling flugelhorns), 3 trombones, bass trombone, piano (doubling harpsichord), guitar, acoustic bass, percussion (1 player).

Duration: 70 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: 1. The Marauder Within -- 2. Time Immemorial -- 3. Tyranny and Van Diemen's Land -- 4. An Indelible Stain -- 5. Beyond the Seas -- 6. Bunters, Mollies and Sable Brethren -- 7. A Strange Lottery -- 8. Norfolk Island -- 9. We be the Aristocracy Now -- 10. The Melancholy Bush (Old Colonial Boy).

Commission note: Commissioned with funds provided by Australia Council.


  • In the form/style of: Jazz

Performances of this work

23 Jan 2020: at Iron in the Blood (City Recital Hall). Featuring Jeremy Rose, Earshift Orchestra, Jeremy Rose.

23 Sep 2018: at Iron in the Blood (Riverside Theatres, Parramatta). Featuring Jeremy Rose, Earshift Orchestra.

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