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I have been fascinated by the beauty of sunsets as long as I can remember. Last year I saw a particularly memorable one as I stood on the Orakei Wharf in Auckland Harbour, which sparked this musical response. The sky was glowing with ever-changing pinks, reds, yellows, oranges, and notable hints of gold on a cloud-canvas of endless textural variety. I wanted to recreate this experience musically by exploring combinations of warm and luminous timbres, whilst slowly merging and moving between these harmonic ‘colours’ and warm, ‘romantic’ clusters of sound.
I began by looking into the colour-sound relationship of the synesthetic composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), and have loosely based my harmonic material on various modes he associated with some of the sunset colours. In terms of timbre, there is a focus on the warm registers of the double reeds, horn, and strings; the ethereal qualities of harp and metallic percussion, and the rich, otherworldly sound of superball mallet on tam-tam. The texture imitates the clouds’ blurred beginnings and ends, its transparency, and its subtle patterns.
03 Dec 2014: Performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for the NZSO/TODD Young Composer Workshop, at the Michael Fowler Centre, in Wellington.