Australian composer James Ledger

Two Memorials
2011
20 mins
2(II=picc+aflt).2(II=corA).2(II=bcl+hmca).2(II=cbn)-4.3.3.1-timp.perc.(3): I=timp/3susp.cym; II=Tam-t/BD(40”)/SD/3Tom-t/chinese cym/tamb; III=BD(60”)/tuned gong (C4)/glspl/tamb-clsta(=elec hpschd+MIDI kyb using Ableton LIVE via laptop)-hrp-strings

Premiere: 25, 26 November 2011
Perth Concert Hall
West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Paul Daniel, conductor

Play sample



At first glance it might seem odd to write memorial pieces for two such disparate composers as Anton Webern and John Lennon: Webern (1883-1945), was part of the Second Viennese School and composer of such highly-powered expressive miniatures. Lennon (1940-1980) – songwriter, activist for peace and of course, a Beatle, who achieved a level of fame the world hadn’t seen before.

What unites these composers, at least superficially, is that they were both shot to death. Webern was shot at the end of the Second World War during the Allied occupation. He stepped out onto the balcony at his home in Mittersill, Salzburg after curfew to enjoy a cigar and was shot by an American soldier. John Lennon was murdered on the steps of his home in New York after returning from a recording session.

It was though, the disparity between the composers that compelled me to write two memorials as one piece. I was intrigued by the potential of putting terse, atonal and pointillistic phrases alongside sixties-pop chord progressions. To unite Webern’s volatile, even brutal music with Lennon’s psychedelic, trippy-circus music seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.

If there is anything in common between these two memorials it is the unrelenting steady pulse that acts as a terrifying funeral march in Webern’s memorial and serves as a driving beat in Lennon’s. The latter memorial also contains recorded samples of Webern’s memorial played in reverse – an effect that typifies the type of studio trickery The Beatles were experimenting with in the mid-1960s.

Two Memorials is dedicated to the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and their principal conductor Paul Daniel who have premiered many new works of mine over the years and to whom I am extremely grateful for their generous spirit and thrilling performances.

In a complete coincidence, I finished this piece on the 9th of October 2011 – what would have been John Lennon’s 71st birthday.




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