The music of

David Lumsdaine

The music of David Lumsdaine

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Cambewarra for solo piano (1980)

Cambewarra, Aboriginal for smoky mountain, looks eastward across the coastal plain to the Pacific Ocean; north and south runs the escarpment of the Great Dividing Range; at its foot to the west are the rich pastures of Kangaroo Valley, cleared by settlers in the middle of the nineteenth century. The original rain forest lives on in the gullies and sheer slopes of the mountain and remains the home of a rich variety of plants and creatures. The piano piece takes its name from this place where it was conceived on the morning of 31/12/78.

The three movements are related to one another like the same landscape at different hours. Each begins with a brief toccata-like figure which outlines the harmonic centre, and together they form an extended Aubade:

1. the turn of night

2. first light

3. sunrise.

The musical material of this piece owes a great deal to the birds which inhabit Cambewarra. Anybody who knows the birdsongs of South Eastern Australia is bound to recognise my debt, but I trust they will also hear the piece as a composed structure which transcends the mere pictorial or the anecdotal. It is the whole experience of those morning hours on the mountainside which became a metaphor for the musical structure. There is, of course, a marvellous model for the transformation of a whole environment into a musical structure – Messiaen’s Catalogue d’Oiseaux.

The work was commissioned by New Music Forum for Peter Lawson, who gave the first performance at the Royal Northern School of Music, Manchester, in January 1981.