Australian composer James Ledger

Chronicles
2009
22 mins
2(II=picc+aflt).1=corA.3(III=bcl).2.cbn-4.3.3.1-timp.perc.(3): I=steel drums(G3-G5)/lge susp.cym/car spring/finger cym/hihat; II=lge Tam-t/3susp.cym/SD/3Tom-t; III=crot/BD/Lge Tom-t/susp.cym-pft.clsta-hrp-strings

Premiere: 11,12 September 2009
Perth Concert Hall
West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Paul Daniel, conductor

Play sample



I was reminded recently how sunlight is very different in winter. The sun offers a different light due to the angle of its rays passing through the atmosphere at this particular time of year. Grey clouds also add their impact to the hues and tones of the imbuing light. These were some of the thoughts that inspired Chronicles. I wanted to write a piece that captured “a day in the life of life”, and Chronicles seemed to fit best. but I also chose the title for the sound of the word, “chronos” being the Latin term for time.
The work is in one continuous structure, although it was originally conceived in two halves. The music of the first part, moves in muted tones and colours, and for the most part is extremely quiet. A melodic line made up of a repeating four-note fragment opens the piece in clarinet and steel drum: the latter more strongly associated with calypsos of the Caribbean than the sombre tones of winter. This line weaves its way through the first part and acts as a backdrop to a glowing choral in the strings. The music continues with small sections that are defined by colour and make extensive use of the piano and celesta. Towards the end, there is a huge climax in the whole orchestra as if the sun has majestically emerged from behind the clouds, offering it’s full slant of winter light.
For the second part I imagined an ice sculpture that at first is defined with intricate and precise edges and as it begins to melt, the edges become more rounded and gradually the object begins to lose its form completely. I tried emulating this in the orchestra with motives that gradually lose their precise edges on each hearing. The piano and crotales add their support of this sad short-lived moment with a descending line that too sounds as though it’s melting, or perhaps wilting. A chorale in the brass follows and this gives way to a perpetuum mobile that begins with pizzicato strings and steel drum and continues to gain momentum by drawing more and more instruments into its world. This leads to a climax made up of the descending material that was heard earlier in the piano and is now on trumpets and later violins. One final blow of the statue figure leads onto some extremely melancholic music in the strings, and the descending material again returns to the piano with celesta.

Chronicles was commissioned by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra as part of the Australia LNG Composer-In-Residence programme 2007-2009. It won the 2011 APRA award for orchestral work of the year.




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