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The Shape of the Earth : for voice, piano and electronics

by Jack Symonds and Pierce Wilcox (2018)

Work Overview

This staged song cycle takes as its inspiration Patrick White's iconic novel Voss and reimagines it completely. Librettist Pierce Wilcox and I were concerned not to emulate the epic, heroic tone of the novel (already a Grand Opera by Richard Meale), but rather interrogate its ideas in 21 quizzical miniature songs, reflecting shards of a complex, broken persona. This Voss is an idealist thrown into a world he longs to understand, yet remains always out of reach. The five parts of this work trace a journey from comic disbelief to flayed loneliness, with White's indelible creation hovering just the background.

To make this kind of work in Australia in 2018 requires a loving scepticism of the idea of Romantic, European ambition and an unflinching desire to try to understand how it became a dominant force in 19th and 20th century culture.

Work Details

Year: 2018

Instrumentation: Male voice, piano, electronics.

Duration: 43 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Dedication note: Dedicated to Mitchell Riley

Commission note: commissioned by Resonant Bodies Festival, Australia

First performance: by Mitchell Riley, Zubin Kanga, Benjamin Carey at Resonant Bodies Festival (Carriageworks) on 1 Sep 2018


Performances of this work

1 Sep 2018: at Resonant Bodies Festival (Carriageworks). Featuring Mitchell Riley, Zubin Kanga, Benjamin Carey.

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