How is it that empty places or inanimate objects can resonate with visceral stories? What memory of a violent act does an object maintain, even long after the act has been committed?
These were questions I found myself asking after visiting the old Cheynes Beach whaling station near Albany, strewn as it is with long disused machines of the cull. I was reading Tim Winton’s ‘The Turning’ at the time, much of which is set in and around Albany, and which is imbued with similar undercurrents.
Musically, it is built from an all-interval tetrachord, first heard in the opening piano motif. This tetrachord is so-named because all possible intervals (from minor second through to tritone, and by extension their inversions out to major 7ths) are represented within these four notes ( Eb, E, G, A ). This motif in turn reflects not only the harmonic movement and structure of the work, but also forms a basis for the 12 tone row which forms the central section of the work.
But Cheynes at its heart is a meditation on place – of rage within calm, of beauty within iron, of peace within an ocean.
Cheynes is the first of four in a series of Ocean Songs centred around aspects of WA maritime history. It was commissioned for the Fremantle Arts Centre’s 2011 soft soft loud chamber music series, made financially possible through Iain Grandage’s Emerging Composer Fellowship from the Ian Potter Cultural Trust.