About the Music
While I was composing the piano quartet Emerald Crossing – a serene passacaglia with characteristics of a barcarolle – I was haunted by an image of a canoe propelled slowly across calm green water, possibly a lagoon, towards an island. No doubt symbolic at a deep level, I had the feeling that the journey was ceremonial – that a ritual was being enacted.”
Ross Edwards is one of the great original minds of Australian music. His music is widely loved and is regularly performed by all major Australian ensembles and around the world.
He was born in Sydney, and his vocation to be a composer crystallised when he attended a Sydney Symphony Orchestra concert when he was 13.
Edwards’ music took a long time to evolve. Interviewed by Andrew Ford, he once described himself living in a freezing London in 1970, writing ferociously complicated modernist music, chain-smoking Gitanes and subsisting on black coffee. ‘I finished the piece and thought to myself, that really is enough of that.’ In finding his way out of this cul-de-sac he all but stopped composing for some years, and instead started contemplating the sounds of nature, of birds and insects and frogs. From this, he distilled two distinct musical styles. The ‘Maninyas’ style (the name comes from a nonsense word in a song from 1981) is lively and dance-like. The other, in which Emerald Crossing is cast, is contemplative, quiet and austere. This is usually described as his ‘sacred’ style.
Edwards didn’t devise this label, but it’s very appropriate. He observes that music has always served a spiritual function – any religious ceremony in any culture is accompanied by music. Many of us attend concerts because the music fills a spiritual need: in his ‘sacred’ works, Edwards tries to bring music specifically designed for contemplation into the concert hall.
Program Notes Copyright © Alastair McKean 2020. All rights reserved.