The music of

David Lumsdaine

The music of David Lumsdaine

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Darling River Studies 2004

for Tony Gilbert

The material for these for studies was recorded in 1984, and was the inspiration for the first two of my digitally recorded soundscapes, Lake Emu and Black Box and River Red Gum which I made for the ABC in 1989. The present studies are essentially complementary to the 1989 works: the season and the breeding cycle are a little earlier, and consequently there is much more song in the air.

1. The billabong at sunset (Lake Emu)

On the shore and in the reeds: White-winged Triller, Striated Pardalote, Willy Wagtail, Zebra Finches, Magpie Lark, White-plumed Honeyeater, Australian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus australis), assorted cicadas, crickets, bees and flies. In the distant lignum, an incessant piping chorus of Little Grassbirds (Megalurus gramineus). Busy in the water: Coots, Spotted and Baillon’s Crakes, Hardheads, Grey Teal, Black Duck, and just out from the shore, a family party of 5 Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) calling gently to one another.

2. Frogs at night

On an extensive marshy area by the river, an enormous crowd of frogs and insects make a mighty chorus in the early evening. As focus changes from one area of the choir to another, different soloists emerge; at times a Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) hoots in the distance.

3. Serenade

In the open country closest to the river, Pied Butcherbirds (Cracticus nigrogularis), Australian Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicens) and Willy Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys) are stirred by the full moon to begin the day’s singing in the small hours. A close recording of a Pied Butcherbird is followed by the song of a neighbouring Magpie. The beginning of the dawn chorus can be heard as a faint breeze stirs the leaves.

4. Raven Cry

Sunrise on the timber within an elbow of the river. The Dawn chorus is in full swing. Prominent is the brilliant song of the Rufous Songlark (Cinclorhamphus mathewsi) and the call of the Whistling Kite (Milvus sphenurus). A party of Australian Ravens (Corvus coronoides) flies round cutting through the other birds’ songs. The yapping call of a Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) leads to the calls of 2 Ravens perched close by which end the piece.

It’s nearly ten years since I last composed any instrumental works, so, prompted by the wish to create a work for my old and dear friend’s 70th birthday, I revisited a favourite place in my recorded archives, and composed these studies with the essential help of the ears of Naomi and Peter Lumsdaine.

DL, 27/6/2004