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Orpheus Music

Composer: Eccles - Lance

Instrumentation: Treble - Tenor - Bass

Period/genre: Australian Contemporary

Grade: Moderate

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*Four Contemporary Pieces.* Appealing set of pieces with some interesting chromaticism.

1. Toxic Effluent
2. Carbon Emissions
3. Global Warming
4. Whale Hunt

_Score 8 pp. Part 4 pp._

  • Reviews

    (Orpheus Music, orpheusmusic.com.au).

    For 20 years, Lance Eccles was a member of the Reluctant Consort, a group based in Sydney, Australia. Most of his compositions have been written for this consort or for meetings of the Sydney Society of Recorder Players. Eccles is retired from his position as a senior lecturer in Chinese at Macquarie University. His current web site states that he is an "honorary senior research fellow in the Department of Ancient History at Macquaie University in Sydney, Australia"; see www.ocs.mq.edu.au/~leccles.

    There are generalities that apply to many of the pieces reviewed here. The reader will note that all of the pieces have colorful programmatic titles. Sometimes, the music des indeed match the literary ideas of the titles. In this reviewer's opinion, there are other cases (as specifically noted below) where the literary images of the title and the actual music do not seem to connect. It may be, in some cases, that some words in these titles simply have other connotations in Australian culture. In any case, a simple solution for this problem would be for the publications to include information regarding the literary ideas behind the titles and how these ideas connect to the music.

    Concerning his style, rhythms are straightforward and on the easier side, oftentimes using light syncopation. For the most part, the voices are very active, with a common exception being the bass lines. It is rare for the upper voices to hold any note longer than a halfnote, sometimes even in the final measures. Eccles has a remarkable ability to have voices moving every half beat for extended passages. He does a great job keeping his voices in lively contrary motion, but he also uses parallel motion to great effect. He likes abrupt endings.

    Some of his music uses lush Romantic harmonies; some is more contemporary and mildly dissonant or even sharply dissonant. Eccles is equally at home in all these harmonic idioms. To enjoy hearing and playing Eccles's music, you will need a taste for contemporary harmony. Having said that the rhythms are easy, I should also mention that most of his music is quite chromatic. If your groups are interested in playing these pieces, get out the chromatic scales; you will need to know all chromatic fingerings.

    Eccles likes to use phrase modulations to distantly-related keys. There are no avantgarde techniques in any of these pieces, beyond simple flutter-tonguing. If I had to rate them for difficulty on a scale of one to five, most would rate a three with exceptions noted below.

    Regarding prices listed, Orpheus Music will remove taxes from the total for non- Australian customers. Prices vary day to day. These pieces are listed with two purchase options: the published version (in hard copy with the well-known purple and orange covers) and the .pdf instantly-downloadable version from orpheusmusic.com.au.

    OMP192 Lance Eccles ENVIROMANIA.

    The four movements of Enviromania are "Toxic Effluent," "Carbon Emissions," "Global Warming" and "Whale Hunt." Such titles prepared me to hear unpleasantness in the music.

    "Toxic Effluent" does suggest its title, with a constant flow of eighth notes weaving among the parts, and accented harsh dissonances. But the second piece, "Carbon Emissions," took me totally by surprise; it is really a quite lovely trio with conservative use of dissonance. The flowing eighth notes set up in the first movement continue into this movement. The score contains an ominous picture of smoke rising out of smokestacks! Perhaps Eccles meant to convey the idea of the calm before the storm.

    The composer is certainly a master at using voice exchanges among parts. There are three striking measures of diminished-seventh chords that descend by half-step, as well as an especially lovely theme in the alto part that floats above the tenor's running eighth notes.

    "Global Warming," a march, also employs attractive harmonies. All parts are very chromatic, but not difficult. It ends unexpectedly, with eighth notes on the fourth beat of the last measure. The picture in the score looks like a brewing hurricane - an ominous idea that is hard to connect to the actual music.

    "Whale Hunt" strikes me as too lighthearted a piece to bear this title. It left me wondering if the composer thinks a whale hunt is a good or a bad event. If I had to name this last movement after hearing it out of context, I might call it something like "Frolic in the Park." I can imagine this lighthearted piece being played in a parade. The top part is lots of fun, with its many skips of Major and minor sixths. The middle part also gets in on some of the skips, but the bass is tamer.

    Susan Groskreutz, American Recorder, January 2011.

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