Magnetic is the first of four works to be completed as part of my composer_connecting_communities residency with the Youth Orchestras of Australia Network. The residency entails travelling to Youth Orchestras around the country, and developing and rehearsing works in collaboration with the participants in those ensembles. The four works together make up a larger work, titled Quadrants¬, with each composition relating to a point of the compass travelled to as part of the residency. The other three works are Exotic for Junior String Orchestra, Deep for Senior Orchestra, and Wild for Intermediate Orchestra.
Magnetic was written for Jim McMullen and the Canberra Youth Music Symphonic Band, and underwent many changes in its gestation, at the suggestion of the players themselves. I thank them all for their input, and especially for their attempts to play earlier versions of the piece that required embouchures of steel and lungs of giants as I repeatedly pushed their instruments beyond reasonable ranges.
The Magnetic of the title has manifested itself in the work in two main ways. There are two principal melodic ideas in the work – ideas which, during its course find themselves attracted to each other, and eventually entwine. The second manifestation was a response to the Federico Garcia Lorca poem Dune from his collection Suites, which inspired much of the opening section. The 2nd Stanza reads:
The North near to death
had switched off its stars.
The skies were shipwrecked,
slowly rising and falling. (translated by Jerome Rothenberg)
The work starts within the darkness of this poem, with a texture reminiscent of a dark ocean and a lonely north star. However, it overcomes this and emerges into world of energy and youth – a world much more reminiscent of the band for whom it was written.