The music of

David Lumsdaine

The music of David Lumsdaine

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Kangaroo Hunt

for piano and percussion

When I was a child, a picture of a kangaroo hunt hung above my bed. It was large and faded, having been drawn by a Northern Territory Aborigine in ink and water colour sometime towards the end of the nineteenth century. Its basic structure was a map characterised by details of the local landscape. Within this area, the narrative details of the hunt were depicted like a comic strip without frames and unrestrained by a convention of direction. The stylised, stick-like men dancing before the hunt began were confronted by themselves returning with their quarry. A peaceful party of kangaroos rested undisturbed by the forward-gazing men who passed them by, intent on spearing these same animals in flight. Looked at one way, time was frozen; looked at another way, it was fluid, plastic, mapped by the landscape. It is my memory of the picture which gives this work its title.

The score itself is somewhat like the map of a musical landscape. Some of the musical elements (landmarks) are precisely notated, while others offer a wide latitude in their interpretation. The players always enter and leave the landscape at the same point, but thereon, they can individually explore its characteristic areas. From time to time they call to one another with a distinctive, repeated-note pattern that always leads to a Refrain. This is the structural pillar of the musical form—its hill-top, perhaps—and it creates an overall Rondo shape with ever-varying episodes.

It was commissioned by the Oxford Bach Festival and first performed by Paul Crossley and James Holland in London, 1971.