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Economy of wax : for soprano, flute/piccolo, viola and harp

by Nicholas Vines (2009)

Score Sample

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Audio Sample

Performance by Adrienne Pardee, Stephen Drury, Jessi Rosinski, Derek Mosloff, Franziska Huhn from the CD Torrid nature scenes

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Torrid nature scenes


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Torrid nature scenes / Nicholas Vines.

Library shelf no. CD 2456 [Not for loan]

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Work Overview

In 2010, as a celebration of the bicentennial of Charles Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of his Origin of Species, soprano Jane Sheldon and biologist/philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith commissioned a number of composers to set extracts from this landmark work for soprano and chamber ensemble. These pieces, known collectively as The Origin Cycle, were premiered on Apr 28th in the Harvard Museum of Natural History by Firebird Ensemble, with subsequent performances in Palo Alto, Halifax (Canada), Canberra and Sydney (Australia). My contribution, Economy of Wax, revolves around Darwin's meticulous detailing of how bees construct honeycomb. The music reflects this structure's intricate mathematics, most audibly its regularity through a particular harmonic event of two seconds duration every twelve seconds. The intense activity of the bees themselves is captured in fluctuating time signatures and waxing and waning tremolo and trills. At the heart of this setting, however, is Darwin's obsessive immersion in his subject, best exemplified by the ecstatic heraldry which accompanies the final scientific conclusion.

Work Details

Year: 2009

Instrumentation: Soprano, flute/piccolo, viola, harp.

Duration: 10 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Rhythmically very difficult - needs a conductor

Commission note: Commissioned by Peter Godfrey-Smith, Jane Sheldon with funds provided by Australia Council.. Commissioned as part of The Origin Cycle

First performance: by Jane Sheldon, Firebird Ensemble, Jeffrey Means, Kate Vincent — 28 Apr 09. Cambridge Science Festival; Harvard Museum of Natural History

Text by Charles Darwin


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Economy of Wax

Performances of this work

10 Apr 2014: at Syzygy Ensemble: Logic (Melbourne Recital Centre, Primrose Potter Salon). Featuring Judith Dodsworth, Syzygy Ensemble.

25 Jul 10: Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood, MA. Featuring Christian Macelaru, Tanglewood Music Center Fellows, Adrienne Pardee.

19 Nov 2009: at The Origin Cycle (Australian Museum). Featuring Ensemble Offspring, Jane Sheldon, Roland Peelman.

19 Nov 09: Australian Museum, Sydney. Featuring Jane Sheldon, Ensemble Offspring, Roland Peelman.

13 Nov 09: Australian National University, Canberra. Featuring Roland Peelman, Jane Sheldon, Ensemble Offspring.

13 Nov 2009: at The Origin Cycle (Peter Karmel Building, ANU School of Music). Featuring Jane Sheldon, Ensemble Offspring, Roland Peelman.

17 Oct 09: Halifax. Featuring Jane Sheldon.

8 Oct 09: Stanford University. Featuring Jane Sheldon, Firebird Ensemble, Jeffrey Means, Kate Vincent.

28 Apr 09: Cambridge Science Festival; Harvard Museum of Natural History. Featuring Jane Sheldon, Firebird Ensemble, Jeffrey Means, Kate Vincent.

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