Ancient Lights, Mystic Sky : full orchestra
by Joseph Twist (2022)
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Australia's night sky is a unique. When we escape the light pollution of our cities, we can stare directly into the endless sparking wonders of the Milky Way, including Magellan and globular clusters only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. It's a truly spiritual experience for me. What I find particularly fascinating is the way stars represent a kind of paradoxical mystery; we look to them with hope and wonder of the future as the Hubble and new Webb telescopes provide spectacular glimpses of an endless universe; and yet, in truth, they are lights from billions of years into the ancient past. Moreover, it is fascinating to think that these lights are far older than even this ancient land, providing inspiration to millennia of First Nations culture, just as they do today.
I'm certainly not an expert on any of this - I don't even own a telescope - but I enjoy seeking out and cherishing such experiences. In 2017 I paid far too much money for a trip to Nashville Tennessee to see a solar eclipse. Recently my boyfriend and I walked through the Rainbow Beach rainforest on a dark moonless night towards Carlo Sand Blow - one of many wonderful stargazing spots here in Queensland. Small clusters of stars shone brightly through the trees as we made our way gradually to the clearing where the night sky opened up to a multitude of sparkling lights.
Aside from the wonder and mystery of it all, I was struck by how joyful the experience was. I've endeavoured to capture these feelings in "Ancient Lights, Mystic Sky." This short orchestral fanfare is a celebration of Australia's unique vantage point of our galaxy's stars. Solo woodwind lines are woven into syncopated dance rhythms which develop into grand orchestral climaxes - a musical reflection of a few stars glimmering through the rainforest trees, leading to a cluster of bright lights, finally revealing the great expanse of the entire night sky. As the music calms, the sparkles continue with with harp, percussion and string harmonics, before a soaring legato melody in cellos and violas begins. This melody is from my choral work "On The Night Train", a setting of a Henry Lawson poem which I believe captures the feelings of mystery and wonder described above.
"Have you seen the bush by moonlight, from the train, go running by?
Here a patch of glassy water; there a glimpse of mystic sky?
Have you heard the still voice calling - yet so warm, and yet so cold:
"I'm the Mother-Bush that bore you! Come to me when you are old"?"
Instrumentation: 2 Flutes/piccolo, 2 Oboe/cor anglais, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (vibraphone, glockenspiel, triangle, crotales, large tom tom, xylophone, large shaker, wind chimes, suspended cymbal, piatti), harp, strings.
Duration: 7 min.
Commission note: Commissioned by Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Performances of this work
15 Sep 22: Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. Featuring Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
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