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Dead songs, op. 45 : for soprano voice, clarinet in B flat, cello and piano

by Andrew Schultz (1991)

Score Sample

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Audio Sample

Performance by Margaret Schindler, Perihelion from the CD Chamber music

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Chamber music


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Chamber music / Andrew Schultz.

Library shelf no. CD 277 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

Dead Songs was composed in June 1991 and consists of settings of texts adapted from epitaphs collected from New South Wales seaside cemeteries at Wombarra, Bulli, South Head and Waverley. Many of the texts are combinations of several different epitaphs (such as No.1, No. 4 and No. 8) and in some cases graffiti or other found texts that made a useful connection have found their way into the work. It was the simplicity of expression, the occasional unintentional humour and even the heartfelt Australian mawkishness of the texts that attracted me to them as sources for a song cycle. The work is laid out quite formally and with some musical references, for example to Schubert's demonic transportation in No. 4, to Bach in No. 8 and Josquin in No. 9.

If there is a metaphor in the work as a whole it can be seen most clearly in the last song. Taken from several decrepit headstones, the text misses the end of most lines and in my setting is left that way - as a kind of floundering expression in the face of bigger obstacles. The analogy here relates to the physical position of the cemeteries as best exemplified by Wombarra with its neat denominational arrangement of the dead seeming somehow insignificant against the slow motion oblivion of sea and wind tearing away at the crumbling cliff edges.

Work Details

Year: 1991

Instrumentation: Soprano, clarinet in B flat, piano, cello.

Duration: 30 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: Buried at sea -- His dust -- And underneath are the everlasting arms -- Ahead of his time -- Dead devils -- Agnus dei -- The Tahiti-Greycliffe disaster, Sydney Harbour 1927 -- Peace perfect peace -- Unreconstructed sentiment.

First performance: by Symeron — 23 May 93. Eugene Goossens Hall, Sydney

Text adapted from epitaphs collected from seaside cemeteries at Wombarra, Bulli, South Head and Waverley.

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for/to
1991 Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize Highly Commended Andrew Schultz


Article: Music and the meaning of water
by Andrew Schultz
Naxos Musicology International (2 May 2020)


Dead Songs


Performances of this work

7 May 2019: at SCM Modern Music Ensemble (Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music). Featuring SCM Modern Music Ensemble, Daryl Pratt.

12 May 2012: at Ensemble Fabrique: From a Dying Land (Ian Hanger Recital Hall). Featuring ensemble fabrique.

22 Sep 2010: at To the Evening Star (Ian Hanger Recital Hall).

13 Aug 2010: at Concert Three (Bangalow A&I Hall). Featuring Liam Viney, Margaret Schindler, Graeme Jennings Quartet, Paul Dean, Patrick Murphy, Stephen Emmerson.

23 May 93: Eugene Goossens Hall, Sydney. Featuring Symeron.

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