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Songs of sea and sky : for strings and optional didjeridu

by Peter Sculthorpe (1987, this version: 2003)

Score Sample

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Audio Sample

Performance by Queensland Symphony Orchestra, William Barton, Michael Christie from the CD Songs of sea and sky

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Peter Sculthorpe, 1929-2014


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Peter Sculthorpe, 1929-2014 : the ABC recordings.

Library shelf no. CD 2599 [Not for loan]

Songs of sea and sky


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Songs of sea and sky : for strings and optional didjeridu / Peter Sculthorpe.

Library shelf no. 784.7/SCU 8 [Available for loan]

Display all products featuring this work (13 more)  

Work Overview

Songs of Sea and Sky was inspired by a traditional dance song from Saibai, an island just south of Papua New Guinea, in Torres Strait. The song was collected on Saibai by Jeremy Beckett in May 1961.

Although some traditional Torres Strait music still survives in its original form, most of that heard today is strongly influenced by the religious music introduced by missionaries in the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, its themes are still predominantly of sea voyages, flights of birds and changes in sea and sky.

The work is in one continuous movement consisting of seven parts : Prelude, a somewhat dramatic saxophone solo; Saibai, a reworking of the traditional melody; Interlude, a second solo; Mission Hymn, a variation of Saibai; Dance Song, a rhythmic section based upon the material presented in the Prelude and Interlude; Lament, a second variation of Saibai; and Postlude, a brief coda. Following the climax, at the end of the Dance Song, the emotional content of the music culminates in the Lament. Here, the music yearns for the years before white settlement.

Work Details

Year: 1987, this version: 2003

Instrumentation: Didjeridu, string orchestra.

Duration: 16 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: Prelude -- Saibai -- Interlude -- Mission hymn -- Dance song -- Lament -- Postlude.

Written for: Queensland Orchestra, William Barton


Resonate article: Ecstatic Dances - Soundstream and OzAsia Festival by Aleksandr Tsiboulski


Performances of this work

22 Aug 21: featuring Kyle Little, Steel City Strings.

3 Nov 2019: at Celebrating 90 Years of Peter Sculthorpe (Launceston Church Grammar School).

30 Aug 2017: at ANAM Recital: Mitchell Jones (South Melbourne Town Hall). Featuring Mitchell Jones, Aidan Boase.

14 Apr 2016: at Australian Voices: Peter Sculthorpe (Melbourne Recital Centre). Featuring Paul Dean.

22 Sep 2012: at Australia Ensemble @ UNSW (Sir John Clancy Auditorium). Featuring Australia Ensemble.

15 Oct 87: Sprague Memorial Hall, Yale University, USA. Featuring Irma Vallecillo, Richard Stoltzman.

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