commissioned by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
Words: Luka lesson
Music: Gordon Hamilton
Conductor: Sarah-Grace Williams
Commissioned by: WAVE FESTIVAL & Queensland Symphony Orchestra
The rationale behind macquarie
The Macquarie concerto is inspired by events both in Australia and in the southern states of the USA, where statues of Confederate fighters are being torn down because of their roles in supporting slavery during the civil war. Here in Australia as well, there is contention about whether we should be honouring people who advanced the colony while also advocating for the oppression of Indigenous peoples. Macquarie himself is seen by some as a hero, and others as a villain. A hero in that he established the first bank and currency and 'advanced' Sydney from a colonial village to a burgeoning city. And a villain in that it was through his hunger for perpetual growth that he also established the first institution for Aboriginal children to be stolen from their families and be placed into government care, and ordered the first government-sanctioned massacre of Indigenous peoples. The Appin massacre resulted in 14 deaths, with bodies of two of those killed sent to Edinburgh for scientific study, where they still remain today - never having been repatriated. This work asks the questions: "Do these actions reverberate in the way we as Australians treat each other today?" And "should we be honouring someone who committed such crimes as these in retrospect?"
Macquarie is structured in five movements. A three-note motif (B G F#) represents ambition. First heard hauntingly on the E-flat clarinet, it recurs across four of the movements – though not the third, a depiction of nature and the balance prior to European settlement. Sometimes the music crystallises into four-bar phrases (a natural fit for hip-hop and rap). This is often not the case, though: the third movement is an organic tangle of irregular phrases (both in the music and in the words). The opening material returns at the close of the work – Macquarie’s grave, though here it is played out of time, without the rhythmic fortitude of the young Macquarie. The harmony – like his story – is far more ambiguous at the end than at the start.
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