The collage takes its name from the poem “Strange Reaction” in John Ashbery’s collection Breezeway. Its last line, which refers to croutons, may be one of the strangest closing lines in the book. Yet it’s no wonder, for, as the poem notes, “[b]y then we were deep in imagination.”
Peter Sculthorpe (1929-2014), Sun Music III (1967) (Adelaide Symphony Orchestra/David Porcelijn, conductor)
The Sun Music series represents four of what are essentially orchestral tone poems, written between 1965 and 1967. Sculthorpe assigned the title “sun” to these works – as he did to related compositions: the ballet Sun Music (1968) and Sun Music for Voices and Percussion (1966) – to capture the scintillating columns of light produced by sunrays striking (and passing through) various forms and structures, as well as the sun’s arid harshness and immense power. Sun Music III is the first of the four tone poems to incorporate Balinese gamelan textures; the term “gamelan” referring to an Indonesian instrumental ensemble, heavily weighted towards percussion instruments, as well as to the resulting aural effects – in particular driving rhythms, and subtle changes in dynamics and pace. Sun Music III also evokes quintessentially Australian soundscapes. As one writer has remarked: “The sounds of the Far East . . . are juxtaposed with wild string harmonics and incredibly subtle use of percussion, while long-breathed themes of utmost desolation place us square in the middle of the Outback.” [citation, p. 4]
A deeply felt memoriam to Sculthorpe may be found here, and a marvelous interview with him on Australian Broadcast Radio may be found (and downloaded) here. In the interview, as one example, Sculthorpe recounts the strange reaction his piano teacher had when he brought her his compositions.
Because I’d been brought up to be active, to do things, when I went to my first music lesson, I naturally thought that I was going to learn to write music. I mean when I went to art lessons I learned to paint. . . . I took my pieces back to my teacher and she was so furious she said “All the composers are dead,” and I should be practicing the piano and she caned me across the knuckles. . . . [from the interview linked above]
Credits: The text in the collage is the title of the Ashbery poem to which the collage relates. The quotations may be found at the sources linked in the text. The collage and its photographic image, as always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, are mine.