for orchestra (2000)
3(pic)23(bs. cl)2;4331; timpani, percussion (2 players: 3 bongo drums-high-middle-low, snare drum, high-hat cymbal, suspended cymbal-medium, tam-tam, 2 conga drums -medium-large, 2 bass drums-with foot pedal & suspended, crotales), harp; strings
duration: 15′ 00″
score available from
Australian Music Centre
Sound Rituals draws on the concept of ‘sound objects’ drawn from the Pacific to give the work a sense of locale, including the ‘kulintang gesture’ and borrowed elements from Filipino indigenous music such as ‘insect rhythm’ music. It also features ideas drawn from the European tradition, such as the ‘colour chord’ gesture exploring interval-colour in a painterly sound approach.
“The third and last work scheduled for the first day was by Australian-based Bruce Crossman, a work called “Sound Rituals”, styled by the composer as “a ritual celebration of Pacific culture”. Enjoined by the composer to “rough the piece up in places” to evoke something of the music’s atmosphere, orchestra and conductor were soon fully engaged by the score’s multifarious demands, the challenge of getting textural balances and rhythmic patterns to dovetail coherently obviously an absorbing one. Crossman writes for an astonishing range of instrumental combinations,a veritable panoply of detail which the composer calls “a living labyrinth of timbral changes and interval conglomerations…” He acknowledges the influences of music from the Philippines in the piece, as well as pointing out his use of an Asian “living sound” approach to colour. Among the ethnic influences quoted are fragments of Filipino kulintang rhythm and of the Tiniguan people’s insect music.
The piece begins with an exotically-textured fanfare episode on muted brass, figures which subside and boil over repeatedly, contrasted with instrumental melismas exploring colour possibilities at the ends of the timbral spectrum. An improvisatory, aleatoric spirit seems to inform some of the writing, episodes galvanised by pointillistic brass writing that sounds like blues players rehearsing in different but open-ended rooms. This slowly-evolving sonority, punctuated with sforzandi from the tuba, leads to an outbreak of furious string activity, both arco and pizzicato (viola and double-bass lines exchanging cross-fire), and ignites the rest of the orchestra with the spirit of the dance. Heady, but complex stuff, that leaves me eager to hear the work again in concert.”
Peter Mechen, “New Zealand Music for Orchestra,” Mechen’s New Zealand Music Page
available on writings page (see DCA, chapter eight)