Young Tree Green

Young Tree Green
(A Song of the Republic)

Colin Bright

Elgar Howarth

Kees Boersma - Double Bass

'play with spacing eg in a row..'

Recorded at the Sydney Opera House by the ABC - Remastered by Colin Bright

' ... after the writings of another Australian creative visionary who, equally, sought national unity and wholeness: Henry Lawson. The piece is a concerto in all but title and has been created in close collaboration with Kees (Boersma). Its techniques are inevitably reminiscent of aspects of Aboriginal music; its colours could easily conjure up images of the vastness of our continent. As we approach the end of the century, though, and as the debate about Australia’s political and cultural independence gains momentum, Colin Bright’s new work might well trigger quite different reflections in the mind of the receptive concert-goer.’Anthony Fogg March 1993

Young Tree Green has been described as music that expresses something quintessentially 'Australian'. English conductor Elgar Howarth, in an interview on ABC radio, commented that this music 'could only have come from Australia', unlike music that sounds like it could have been written 'anywhere'.

The idea behind the music

Young Tree Green is a phrase from Henry Lawson's poem A Song of the Republic.

He refers to Britain as 'the Old Dead Tree... the land that belongs to the lord and the Queen' and says 'Sons of the South are few! / But your ranks grow longer and deeper fast '. No doubt there is broader support for a republic in Australia now than there was in Lawson's day, and the view of the monarchy is generally that it is nothing more than the pinnacle of the privileged elite in a class-burdened society.

Australia is referred to as 'the Young Tree Green... the land that belongs to you', and he urges 'Sons of the South, awake! arise! ... Banish from under your bonny skies / Those old-world errors and wrongs and lies / Making a hell in a Paradise.'

It is perhaps worth recalling that in the aftermath of the 1975 constitutional crisis, (or coup d'etat), the Queen stressed her position outside our governmental process. Her private secretary wrote to the former government's Speaker, '...the Australian Constitution firmly places the prerogative powers of the Crown in the hands of the Governor-General ... The Queen has no part in the decisions which the Governor-General must take in accordance with the Constitution.' Now there is a really useful head of state for you!

A republic is inevitable but a treaty with the Aboriginals is not so assured. Finding a solution to this issue is essential for a mature and healthy society to develop. The outright injustices that the indigenous culture has suffered, and still suffers, must be redressed. As Shirley Hazzard once put it, it's not so much a matter of 'identity', rather 'wholeness'.

Consequently, the dedication of this piece is 'for a republic and a treaty.'

The Music

One of my aims in this piece was to play with melodic material for the double bass that is not impelled harmonically, as has been the case for centuries.

The contour of the melody has been shaped by a particular landscape. (I don't think that this should be seen as overly significant in itself - it was just an interesting starting point for the piece). There are five fragments, or connected phrases: - descend-ing (short), descending (long) descending further (long), ascending (medium), redescending (short). The predominant intervals are major and minor seconds.

The rhythmic figure which connects the piece is, in its most simple form is 4 ½ + 3 ½ + 5 ½ + 2 ½ - i.e. (4/4 1/8 3/4 1/8 5/8 1/8 2/4 1/8) which adds up to 16 beats, but does not sound 'square' as 4/4 would.

The piece is structured as follows:

Introduction: The orchestra is juxtaposed with the solo double bass. Elements of the rhythmic and melodic material are introduced, and there is a suggestion of the underlying presence of a giant didjeridoo.

Song 1: The solo double bass plays the melody in a songlike way. The orchestra accompanies.

Flatland I: Slow, colourful. The essential quality here is stasis.

Song 2: The double bass plays the melody with some variation. The orchestral accompaniment plays with 2 against 3 rhythmically, with mode-like ripples -which cross each other like rolling waves.

Cadenza: All the melodic material is churned about!

Flat 2: Slow, colourful. The solo double bass intensifies its voice in long expressive phrases with an underlying static quality. The piece gradually accelerates from these murky depths to...

Song 3: All elements of the piece interact, the tempos increase and the orchestra reaches climactic points. Will the solo double bass have the last word?

Young Tree Green was commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation with financial assistance from the Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council.