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The beginning and the end of the snow
for soprano and ensemble
ISMN : 979-0-2325-4361-1
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The beginning and the end of the snow is a mise-en-musique of Yves Bonnefoy’s 1991 poetry cycle Debut et fin de la neige for Soprano and five-piece virtuosic ensemble. The setting of a celebrated epic French poem by an Australian composer was a deliberate choice to position the song cycle as a post-colonial text. My ambition was to create a work that transformed the reflective, exquisite diaristic aspects of the words, into a tableau vivant that played with the spectres of European musical heritage.
The song cycle explores various ephemera of colonialism, such as where cultural signification perceived and processed as imposed, foreign and distant. The work is loaded with subtle references to many canonical French composers but avoids where possible a sense of pastiche. My practise is heavily influenced by thinkers such as Michel Foucault, Marc Augé and Harold Bloom. European antecedence in Australian music remains a curiously problematic site, but one that preoccupies my thoughts, and therefore work. Hence the work is a comment on the perception of “French-ness” from a non-French colony, post-colonial site: the double “other” cultural function of French in an Australian setting.
The soprano is central to the work, but the instruments could never be thought of as “accompaniment”. The music was conceived as a web of flurried light, sparking off and intertwining with the vocal line, at times a playful lightness viewed through a dense blizzard: a somewhat obvious allegory for the characteristic of the many varied qualities of snow. The first half of the work is 15 musical aphorisms; the second half four big songs. It is a huge sing, so is best performed with an interval, although it can be sung by two singers, alternating sections and played through then as one continuous work.
The beginning and the end of the snow premiered in Melbourne on August 2, 4 and 5 August 2007 with Miriam Gordon Stewart, Richard Haynes, Alice Giles, Ceridwen Davies, Caerwen Martin and Peter Dumsday, and was conducted by Timothy Phillips.
David Chisholm Bendigo, Australia 2012
Clarinets Richard Haynes
Harp Alice Giles
Viola Ceridwen Davies
Cello Caerwen Martin
Piano/Harpsichord/Celeste Peter Dumsday
Conductor Timothy Phillips
Recorded at Atlantis Studio
Pages - 222