Hourglass Beach – composer’s perspective, what’s it all about?

In my music career I’ve swung around from clarinet to singing to composition, and played solo recitals and with massive orchestras.  Definitely the most wonderful moments are the first time you hear someone else play your music, and when people respond to a performance of your new piece.  I especially like blending less common combinations, and that’s why in the Hourglass Ensemble performances you will always enjoy woodwind, strings, and piano, often with voice.

I believe that art music should express modern ideas, real stories, and profound emotions, just like visual arts, theatre, and dance.  We shouldn’t shy away from talking about death, the environment, justice, fear, and hope for the future.  Since I went to Africa in 2014, and through new friendships and relationships, I have started feeling very uncomfortable with inequality in the world, and the damage caused by the first world in exploiting resources and poorer nations.

“Hourglass Beach” is a response to my concerns.  It is, like all my other song cycles, a very personal story, with unquestionable autobiographical elements.  A man realises that the lies sold to the first world citizens about growth, consumption, and luxury, to control their behaviour, are much more poisonous than the simple lies we tell to children to make them grow into responsible adults.  The system Australians and others live in is directly causing death and suffering of many vulnerable people, and yet we ourselves are expected to assuage our guilt by volunteering and donating to charity.  But isn’t it the responsibility of our government to start changing the system?

In my composition, the solution the protagonist finds is to flee to a distant place, of tranquility, freedom, and absolution of guilt.  Wracked by regret, he hears a faint song in an unknown language, calling him from far across the water.  He picks up a shell, treasured from his childhood, and listens to the ocean… he is magically absorbed into the dark interior of the shell, and is transformed into a black and white hourglass dolphin (a real species, living in the Southern Ocean).  From there he flees through the dark seas for thousands of miles, to find Hourglass Beach.  There he will end his days, denying rescue, bonding with a variety of animals, in fact blending himself in with the environment.  This is the fourth world – unseen and uncontactable, he fades from the memory of others, and lets his identity and relationships slip away.

What his fate is, we will not know.  Perhaps it was a dream?  Perhaps he went insane?  Or maybe he really did flee, and killed himself on a remote island, or maybe he lived a long natural life.

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