KOUVARAS, Linda Ioanna

MMus University of Melbourne 1991 Pages: 92

Aspects of the postmodern condition in Southern cross, double concerto : a work by Barry Conyngham

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[Abstract reproduced with permission of author].
An investigation of musical postmodernism in Southern Cross: Double Concerto for Violin and Piano by Barry Conyngham (1981). I examine the many factors which would seem inherently oppositional in impulse and/or in terms of their mutual interaction: double concerto form, where soloists are traditionally pitted against orchestra and against one another; the extra-musical programme of the work, which situates a dramatic scenario between a pair of human individuals against the backdrop of the celestial and the terrestrial; and in the individual movements, which 'meditate' on such disparate aspects of the universe as 'Magnitude', 'Velocity', 'Duration', 'Collisions', and 'Distance'; also implied is the idea of the relative brevity of human life compared with the ultimate permanence of the celestial and the terrestrial.

In terms of its impact on the listener and of its aesthetic and political consequences, the most potent oppositional force operating within Southern Cross: Double Concerto is not, however, to be found in any theme from the above list. It lies in the fact that within the context of an otherwise predominantly extended-technique, latter twentieth-century, "high" art-music format, Conyngham has appropriated Waltzing Matilda, using it as a musical symbol to denote "Australianness". The oppositional forces—inherent in the admixture of folksong with "high" art, late-twentieth-century music—lie in the realms of both musical structure as well as extra-musical aesthetics.

Concentrating on the ‘Duration’ movement, and including considerations of the attendant paratexts to the work (which incorporate the sleeve notes to the recording; the words to Waltzing Matilda; Conyngham's verbal statements about Southern Cross, and about his compositional impetus), this study deploys postmodern theoretical perspectives to explore ramifications which stem from the admixture of opposites in this movement of Southern Cross: Double Concerto.

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