Dedicated in memory of my beloved friend and teacher, the late Peter Sculthorpe, this music unites two of my principal passions: all things Peter and distance running. The latter is a relatively new interest Peter applauded.
Peter’s passing was on a Friday morning 8th August 2014. The Sunday following I was due to compete in my first City to Surf, a gruelling 14 kilometre run along the Harbour-side through Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, rising up ‘Heart Break Hill’ and down the ocean cliffs to Bondi Beach, a route that Peter and I had frequently travelled in our much younger days, similarly adrenalin-fuelled, in his racy Red MGB Sports Car. It is a dreaming track enfolding sparkling Pacific waters, sun drenched, rich in memories.
On the Edgecliff Post Office Hill, the morning of Peter’s passing, traveling to Wolper Hospital, I had a vision of him being gently lifted skywards by black winged creatures I took to be angels. Transforming into his youthful body, he was smiling broadly. He was omnipresent during the next several days. Overwhelmed and heavy with grief, I was only able to make it to the Start line that Sunday morning because I felt sure Peter would run the race with me. He did. His physical presence was palpable and our conversations memorable.
This music maps our journey together. The experience wasn’t all sad. You will hear the ostinati formed by runners footsteps. There were moments when we danced together to the roadside entertainment. We spoke of our shared fascination with Asia and our love for Australia, the spiritual quality of our landscape and above all the mystical force of the Sun. We spoke with sadness of the embargo on our relationship imposed by our respective Muses that pulled us apart in the mid-70s to follow individual paths.
In composing this quartet it seemed our Muses were at last in harmony; writing this music felt like a co-composition. Peter’s famous ‘Woollahra’ chord is a leitmotif throughout, offset always with a passage of gentle weeping. There is lyrical dialogue as we come to terms with what could never be. There are passages of the ubiquitous birds that inhabit so much of Peter’s music and which also refer to my String Quartet No 2 (1973). In the last of the fast sections, runners’ footsteps morph into the patterns of Balinese gamelan. In the final bars, Peter rises Heavenwards into the Sun, clothed in his shimmering Woollahra chord; as at the end of the race, I am compelled to bid him farewell. Peter, of course, lives on in his beautiful music and in none more so than in his eighteen string quartets.
I am deeply grateful to Geoff Stearn for his generous commission and to Musica Viva for the opportunity to write such a special work, as well as to the awesome Orava String Quartet for giving the premiere.
Anne Boyd, 23.08.15