Music of Contemporary Australia

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Music of Contemporary Australia|
Analysing Repertoire Task|
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This term, music has focused on the topic of “Music of Contemporary Australia.” In this assessment piece, two contrasting compositions by James and John Morrison, “Sydney by Night” and “Pinnacles”, will be analysed, compared and contrasted. Elements of music (eg. Harmony, rhythm, dynamics and texture) will be pinpointed. Explanations will also be given to describe how these elements have been used to portray the two title ideas (ie. “Sydney” and the “Pinnacles” which are the Twelve Apostles). An opinion will also be given on how successful the music has been at creating these images.| Year 11, 2012Semester 2, Term 4|

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In 1988, leading Australian jazz musicians James and John Morrison produced a fusion-jazz album named Postcards from Down Under. The album aimed to link music with certain paintings by the famous contemporary artist Ken Done. Two pieces on the album include Pinnacles and Sydney by Night. The artwork “Pinnacles” was painted by Ken Done soon after the piece was written by James Morrison. The composition sets out to capture the splendour and mystery surrounding The Twelve Apostles off the southern coast of Victoria. The painting Sydney by Night was created before the piece was written by James Morrison. Here, Ken Done attempts to convey the New South Wales capital city as being “beautiful, romantic, hard, sensual, sad, commercial, generous and brash.” (Dorricott & Allan, 1990)Both the pieces use musical element such as harmony, rhythm, articulation and instrumentation to convey the intended mood. In this essay, these musical elements will be explored. Pinnacles and Sydney by Night will be deconstructed to show how they individually express their intended mood. A comparison will be made, and a conclusion drawn on which of the two pieces more effectively achieves its programmatic intention. Pinnacles is not the average piece of music. The seventh composition within Postcards from Down Under was the Morrison brother’s first experience with electronic music. A ‘Synclavier’(a computer based music generator) was used to program all parts within the composition. Drums, bass, auxiliary percussion and other interesting computer generated sounds were all produced using the ‘Synclavier’. The only exception to this was the two trombone lines, which were played separately by James Morrison, then multitracked, as well as the acoustic guitar. Other forms of experimentation were also trialled within this composition. Interesting techniques included the transformation of percussion lines into pizzicato cello parts. Many of the techniques explained above are extremely beneficial towards the overall programmatic intention of the composition. Various elements of music were manipulated to create the mood of “grandeur and mystery” (Citation). Not only this, but the piece uses the effects of the “Synclavier” extremely well to depict the environment of which the Twelve Apostles are located, as well as the painting created by Ken Done. With a rock face nearby, as well as being surrounded by water, the crashes of waves upon the cliff are well represented with the use of the sounds of a “ringing triangle” at the beginning of the composition. This effect is also used under the trombone melody in sections of the piece. This was not the only effect used to depict the sea side of which the Twelve Apostles are situated. The use of pan pipe chords throughout fragments of the piece well illustrates the gusts of wind present at many coastlines of Australia. From the beginning of the composition, a repeated ostinato line is introduced. Including generated sounds of a cowbell, shaker and many other axillary percussion lines, the ostinato is a constant companion to the trombone melody, as well as other sections of the piece. This ostinato also helps depict the style and intended mood of the piece as laidback and relaxed – no real excitement yet still...
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