The Saqqara Bird (2016)

Symphony Orchestra

Duration: 9 minutes | Composed: 2016, Commissioned by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra | Premiered Federtaion Concert Hall, Hobart 2016 | Recorded by The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marko Letonja.

2(pic).2(EH).2(Bass).2(contra)/ timp/1perc/strings

There’s something undeniably intriguing about events that happened, discoveries that were made, and literature that was written at the turn of the 20th century. Until recently I have been obsessed by just the literature.

In 1898 an expedition took place in Saqqara, Egypt, during which a curious and confounding artefact was discovered. The object I am referring to is a bird-shaped relic made of sycamore wood. Due to a lack of period documentation, the function of the Saqqara Bird is completely unknown. Some hypothesize it is a ceremonial object, while others radically envision it is evidence that the Egyptians were dabbling in the principles of aviation. It has also been posited as a weather vane, an elite child’s toy, some sort of boomerang, and as a featured carving on the masthead of a sacred boat.

This orchestral work places the Saqqara Bird at the intersection of all these theories in an imagined tapestry of the mechanical, the living, and the ancient becoming new again. By focusing on the ‘engineered’ side of this wooden carving as inspiration, I was able to invest a great deal more rhythmic and harmonic stability than usual into my music. A wonderful side effect of maintaining a clearly defined beat is that varied repetition more easily gives way to new, yet familiar, melodic ideas. So, while this piece is a more lyrical and thematically organized work which relies on motivic transformation to propel forward, I will say that it still aims to captures something imaginative and fictional in its Pinocchio-like metamorphosis.


Full Score - Digital and Hardcopy (purchase outright) full score, and Hardcopy Parts (Hire Only) are available via the Australian Music Centre website

If you are planning to perform this work, please contact the Australian Music Centre for Hire of Parts (link above).