Timeless Land

by Anthony Ritchie, for orchestra, Opus 107

Timeless Land

Timeless Land can be performed as an orchestral piece alone, or in conjunction with a film by Natural History NZ and readings of texts by Brian Turner and Owen Marshall.

Programme Note

Central Otago holds a special place in the hearts of many people. This is clear to see in the wonderful book called Timeless Land which combines the paintings of Grahame Sydney with the writings of Brian Turner and Owen Marshall. We decided early on to focus on the Maniototo, which is Grahame's spiritual heartland and which has inspired so many of his great works. For me the Maniototo suggests a variety of feelings: awe at the expansiveness of the land and the surrounding ranges. There is the exhilarating beauty of the different seasons: the Autumnal colours for instance, or the bleak Winter images.

There is the strange sense of freedom and escape that one experiences driving through the Maniototo. There can also be an overwhelming sense of loneliness, and feelings of insignificance when placed in such a vast, un-peopled landscape. Then there are the reminders of human impermanence, with decaying and abandoned structures, old graveyards and memorials. The Maniototo will mean different things to different people, but in this work I have tried to portray it in sound, as I feel it in my heart. So the music is not simply descriptive, or impressionistic; it also reflects human moods and emotions.

While the music is designed to be combined with images, it can also stand alone. There is a loose symphonic structure in the four movements, with recurring themes and motifs. Most significant of these are the opening cornet melody, and an assertive cornet call that first appears in the middle of the second movement. This cornet call has a vague connection with The Last Post, and becomes a reminder of death in the third movement. Most themes and ideas in the music derive from the manipulations of a 5-note motif, using magic squares. The 5-note motif, which is never openly revealed in the piece, comes from a short Magnificat, composed at the time of my mother's death in 2001.