No Friend but the Mountains : a symphonic song cycle
by Behrouz Boochani and Luke Styles (2020)
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No Friend but the Mountains : a symphonic song cycle / music by Luke Styles ; words by Behrouz Boochani.
Library shelf no. Q 783.88547/STY 1 [Available for loan]
No Friend but the Mountains, Behrouz Boochani's multi award-winning book which chronicles his perilous journey as an asylum seeker and his forced detention on Manus Island, is the inspiration behind this new Symphonic Song Cycle.
Composing this work has been a huge milestone for my work, seeing me create my largest and longest piece outside of opera. I have had the chance to explore new sound worlds by using a large orchestra and singers, and have aimed to craft a journey for the listener which will be moving, confronting and life affirming.
I began reading Behrouz Boochani's book, No Friend But The Mountains on the suggestion of the bass baritone soloist Adrian Tamburini, who will be performing the work. I saw in Boochani's book not just a moving personal and contemporary story of the tragic reality facing so many refugees but also an Australian story with resonances throughout history and themes of Australian identity: These included incarceration and the search for a safe haven, recurring aspects of Australia's story from its convict past through to today. Boochani also draws on the geographical isolation of Manus and Nauru islands which also rings true of Australia. These are places of unique beauty in their landscapes, flora and fauna but in their isolation they have been transformed into horrendous prisons. I have been interested in exploring the idea of Australia the prison island and the isolated continent of unique beauty through Boochani's words.
After a long time spent with Boochani's book and exploring other poetry from Australia's convict past through to today, to ground the work in a broader history of Australian identity and the themes that Boochani deals with, I began to develop a thematic structure for the work to reflect my particular focus in Boochani's work. Out of this I derived a selection of text from across the entire No Friend But The Mountains book which came to represent 12 individual songs. In addition to the 12 songs there are 2 interludes for orchestra alone which progress the themes of the work through music alone.
I am thrilled that the work is being premiered by such wonderful musicians and partners and have been very moved through the process of creating this work.
Instrumentation: Bass baritone soloist, SATB chorus, piccolo, 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets in B flat, bass clarinet in B flat, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets in B flat, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (3 players: snare drum, low tom tom, bass drum, bongos, rute/switch, wood block, triangle, medium cymbal, large cymbal), harp, celesta, strings.
Duration: 60 min.
Contents note: I. Under moonlight -- II. The sounds of small children -- III. In that moment everything is absurd -- IV. All our dreams -- V. Joy -- VI. This rescue -- VII. The tug boat arrives at the pier -- VIII. Two open-entry exit points -- IX. The prison -- X. First, out of the darkness, a bird -- XI. Life is like an accident - XII. Chucka is chanting.
Commission note: Commissioned by Zelman Symphony Orchestra.. Commissioned by Zelman Symphony Orchestra.
First performance: by Adrian Tamburini, Zelman Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Bach Choir, Rick Prakhoff at No Friend but the Mountains: A Symphonic Song Cycle (Sidney Myer Music Bowl) on 21 Mar 2021
Performances of this work
21 Mar 2021: at No Friend but the Mountains: A Symphonic Song Cycle (Sidney Myer Music Bowl). Featuring Adrian Tamburini, Zelman Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Bach Choir, Rick Prakhoff.
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