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Program note: There Came a Wind like a Bugle

  • Nigel Butterley — © Nigel Butterley
  • Source: Priogramme Vocal Music of Our Time The Song Company at the Garrison Church 2 July 1988

There Came a Wind Like a Bugle
It was the first performance of 'Laudes' at thc 1964 Adelaide Festival which established Nigel Butterley as one of the leaders of a new wave of Australian composers. This work was the first fruits of study with Priaulx Rainier in London, and of a year spent in Europe. In 1966 Butterly's reputation was consolidated when his radiophonic choral work 'In the Head the Fire' was awarded the prestigious ltalia Prize.

Two years later the orchestral'Meditations of Thomas Traherne' was the last of a number of works with specifically Christian motivation.

Though his music has moved away from the overtly religious inspiration of this early period, the metaphysical aspect is still strong, and helps to make his an individual voice in Australian music. It was evident in a number of works in the l970s influenced by the Poetry of Walt Whitman - most notably 'Sometimes with One I Love' and 'Watershore', and appears again in the fact that Emily Dickinson was chosen for the text of his most recent work, for The Song Company.

The l970s saw the production of several important orchestral works: the violin concerto and symphony, 'Explorations for Piano and Orchestra' and 'Fire in the Heavens'. More recent works include 'The Owl', a monodrama written for soprano Joan Carden, and The Seymour Group.

Âfter being a member of the ABC'5 music staff for some years, Nigel Butterley became lecturer in contemporary music at Newcastle
Conservatorium in 1973.

His performance of John Cage's 'Sonatas and lnterludes', at the 1916 Adelaide Festival and elsewhere, have been highly acclaimed. But as a pianist he has concentrated mainly on duo-recitals and chamber music, having been involved in numerous performances of European and Australian contemporary music.

In 1985, to mark his fiftieth birthday, Nigel Butterley was Honoured Artist at Musica Viva's Mittagong Easter Festival.In the same year,he was awarded an Australia Council fellowship, to enable him to work full-time on the opera 'Lawrence Hargrave Flying Alone'. This was commissioned by the New South Wales Conservatorium and is to be produced in October 1988 by the Conservatorium Opera School.

'There Came a Wind like a Bugel' is Nigel Butterley's fïrst Adelaide Festival commission.

"America's two great visionary poets of the nineteenth century could hardly have been more different in both liÍestyle and poetic method.

Walt Whitman, flamboyont, boastful, gregarious, wrote in long unmetered lines and was Íull of words. Emily Dickinson withdrew to become a recluse, to experience to the Íull her inner world and express it in brief, short-lined verses and fragments.

Having set Whitman texts in 'Sometimes with One I Love' (1976) and 'Watershore' (1975) I was keen to meet the different challenge of responding to Dickinson. Apart from the vivid imagery and the concentration oÍ thought, the most striking thing about her poetry is the punctuation, which ranges from nothing to a profusion of dashes. (It was usually 'normalised' in editions of her work prior to the Complete Poems, edited by T.H. Johnson, which first appeared
in 1955.)"

Nigel Butlerley


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