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Nigel Keay - Adagio for Strings / Symphony for Strings (1989)

Written in 1989, Symphony for Strings - Three Images of Java is in three movements, 1. Allegro, 2. Adagio & 3. Moderato. Adagio for Strings is the second movement performable separately.

 
     
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My first exposure to the traditional music of Indonesia came in 1980 while studying music at Victoria University of Wellington. The School of Music housed two full sets of gamelan instruments on loan from the Indonesian Embassy. I participated in regular rehearsals and performances of this traditional percussion orchestra comprising gongs, metallophones, marimba-like instruments & drums, etc. The group was on occasions aided by the cultural attaché from the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington.

An extended stay of several months in Central Java, Indonesia, in 1984 allowed me to gain a much more intense exposure of the gamelan in its authentic cultural context as well as the opportunity to appreciate the other associated traditional arts such as dance and puppetry. The influence of hearing this uniquely timbred and structured music eventually filtered through to my composition, most notably from 1989 to 1992.

Didier Jacquin, who conducted several performances of the Adagio in December 2005, sees it as a movement of very simple and minimal construction where time is suspended, reflecting the period of the day on Java where the overbearing heat causes everything to stop. Only the long resonances of the gongs from the gamelan orchestra are to be heard.

The Adagio was also performed in January 2005 by the Paris Choral Society Orchestra in a special commemorative/fundraising concert for the victims of the tsunami.