The music of

David Lumsdaine

The music of David Lumsdaine

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Kelly Ground

Kelly Ground is an extended cyclic composition for solo piano. It was composed in 1966 when Lumsdaine was in his mid-thirties, and marked a significant step in his career. The ‘ground’ of the title is made from a sequence of superimposed pulses in the ratio 4/5 : 1 : 5/4 : 25/16. The symmetrical nature of this structure is characterised in terms of regular verses and cycles of movement, the piece beginning and ending at the point where the four pulses are coincident. The piece lasts 22 minutes: the first cycle is created in five strophes (verses) and cycles two and three, highly condensed, create the concluding four minutes of the piece.

‘Kelly’ is the legendary Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. Striking elements of that story are Kelly’s identification with the natural landscape in which he took refuge, and the violence of the colonial authorities confronting him; Lumsdaine’s work explores these elements metaphorically rather than literally, though it is hard to understand the cathartic end of the piece in any other terms than that of Kelly’s death on the scaffold.

Kelly Ground constitutes a first public acknowledgement of the composer’s close spiritual ties with the Australian continent, its lore and its soundscapes. In the succeeding works of his maturity such ties became ever more clearly manifest.

Kelly Ground was dedicated to Don Banks and written for Roger Smalley, who gave its first performance at a BBC Invitation Concert in London in 1966.