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Of Whirlwind Underground

for mixed chamber quintet

Year:  1999   ·  Duration:  18m
Instrumentation:  E flat clarinet, bass clarinet, bass trombone, cello, double bass

Year:  1999
Duration:  18m
Instrumentation  E flat clarinet, bass clari...

Composer:   Lyell Cresswell

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Lyell Cresswell: Of Whirlwi...

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The sound is of whirlwind underground
Earthquake, and fire, and mountains cloven;
The shape is awful like the sound,
Clothed in dark purple, star-inwoven.

Thus Panthea, an ocean nymph, describes the appearance of the Phantasm of Jupiter, or the 'Tremendous Image', summoned in anguish by Prometheus in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.

Prometheus is seen here as a symbol of those who challenge tyranny for the sake of mankind. By stealing fire from Olympus to give to humans, Prometheus incurred the wrath of Jupiter. He was chained to a rock where, each day, an eagle tore out his liver, and each night it grew whole again. He cursed Jupiter and was hounded by the Furies.

Maui stole fire from his grandmother Mahuika to give to humans and changed himself into an eagle to escape the flames.

It is the energy of the curses, the hounding, the wrath of Jupiter, the flight of the eagle, the gift of fire, as well as the compassion of Prometheus and Maui that I have sought to reflect in the music.

Of Whirlwind Underground is in one continuous movement comprising eighteen merging sections incorporating various combinations of instruments and solo breaks. The quintet grows from two musical ideas, one rhythmic, first stated by the double bass at the very beginning; and the other melodic, introduced straight after by the Eb clarinet. These ideas are juxtaposed, combined, protracted, contracted and variously transformed throughout the piece, while other accompanying and punctuating particles develop and take on greater significance as the music progresses.

Commissioned note

Commissioned by 175 East with funding from Creative New Zealand

Text note

Based on a Shelley Text from Prometheus Unbound

Performance history

21 Nov 1999: Performed by Gretchen La Roche (Eb clarinet); Katherine Hebley (cello); Daniel Stabler (double bass); Tim Sutton (bass trombone); Andrew Uren (bass clarinet)

30 Apr 2000: Performed by 175 East: Gretchen La Roche (clar.), Katherine Hebley (cello), Daniel Stabler (d. bass), Tim Sutton (tromb.), Andrew Uren (b. clar.), Hamish McKeich (cond.)

11 Aug 2010: Waikato University Lunchtime Series

14 May 2011: Organised Sound from Organised Labour - 175 East

20 May 2011: New Music From Old Instruments - 175 East

Performed by 175 East cond. Hamish McKeich in 1999

Performed by 175 East

Performed by 175 East: Gretchen La Roche (Eb clarinet), Andrew Uren (bass clarinet), Tim Sutton (bass trombone), Katherine Hebley (cello), Daniel Stabler (double bass), Hamish McKeich (conductor) in 2000

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