A synaesthetic tradition persists whereby audiences expect composers to have found inspiration in extra-musical stimulus: stories, poems or visual images that will be represented in some way in their music. This approach to composition rarely appeals to me, and I generally reflect abstract thought in purely musical terms without reference to other sensation.
Which still leaves begging the question of 'what it means', assuming music can possibly possess empirical meaning beyond its own frame of reference. For this symphony I hopefully offer 'scenes from daily life' as illumination.
Modern life is almost impossibly rich with an incessant daily onslaught of violent and confronting images. Wars and humankind have always been close kin, but the modern capacity to witness first-hand destruction from the safety of a private video screen has much to recommend it. (The ability to retain all of one's own blood throughout the process ranks highly). Even if one has direct connections to violence, until recently nobody was able to appreciate the global scale of decimation and desolation wrought every day by our species and, in the final analysis, by each one of ourselves.
The six main 'scenes' in this music run together as a single movement. The first two scenes mirror the same idea from opposite sides: the first allowing competing energies to collide into uniformity, the second moving from unison to plurality. The third and fifth scenes are slow sections reflecting on loss and beauty, separated by a contrasting scene of skittish energy. The sixth scene is a danse macabre.
Despite these clear distinctions, the scenes depict no explicit, predetermined images, actions or events. They remain abstract emblems of the drama of human interaction on a human scale.
Carl Vine, November 2008
Symphony Nš 7 was commissioned by Janet Holmes ā Court, and by Symphony Australia with funds provided by the Australian Government through the Australia Council its arts funding and advisory body. It was ﬁrst performed by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arvo Volmer at the Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia, on the 14th of November 2008.