From saxophone orchestra to wind symphony, Katia’s latest piece showcases woodwind in a new and innovative way.

Work First Light at Uluru for Wind Symphony
Composer Katia Beaugeais
Scored for Wind Symphony
Commissioned by Dr John Lynch and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Matt Klohs
Premiere September 24, 2016
Performers Sydney Conservatorium Wind Symphony, Dr John Lynch

First Light at Uluru was originally composed for the Queensland Conservatorium Saxophone Orchestra and received world premiere performances at the 2015 World Saxophone Congress in Strasbourg featuring thirty saxophonists, the Selmer Saxophone Showrooms in Paris, and in a joint concert with the Royal Northern College of Music Saxophone Orchestra in England. Australian performances included the Sydney Conservatorium Saxophone Orchestra and QCSO’s CD launch in Brisbane.

The aim of this new version for wind symphony is to convey the Aboriginal significance and sacred earth of Uluru. Uluru means ‘Earth Mother’, and is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area. The 8.6 square kilometre rock is believed to hold a powerful energy source and marks the place where Dreamtime began. Symbolic ‘didgeridoo-like’ vibrato sounds and special atmospheric sound effects symbolise its cultural significance and spiritual atmosphere.

My compositional style is strongly influenced by a variety of atmospheric contemporary playing techniques that I love to perform on the saxophone. Hence, ‘air vibrato’ wind sounds that also reflect the characteristic wind gusts of Uluru, have been recomposed for each instrument, ranging from the piccolo to the tuba. To produce these effects, the players are instructed to play their instruments in unusual ways, such as inverting their mouthpiece upside down and blowing air into the opposite end. In addition to the eighty wind symphony players, the premiere will include two wind machines, further amplifying the wind sounds throughout the Verbrugghen hall.  

This piece is also inspired by the spectacular sunrise over Uluru. Also known as Ayers Rock, this giant red rock is located in the middle of Australia’s red desert. At dawn it changes colour and produces an illuminating red and orange glow. To maintain the saxophone identity within the work, the original solo saxophone melodic lines and soothing avant-garde effects remain. The soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass saxophones play trance-like multiphonic and quarter-tone trill timbral effects alongside the gradual build-up of sustained vibrato effects by the whole wind symphony, forming a fusion of colouristic sounds to convey the rock’s illuminating changes of colour. A unifying moment occurs when all players improvise over fast descending glissando motifs, producing a loud, kaleidoscopic, collage-like textural sound mass that gradually dissolves into soft air wind sounds.  

The compositional aim of First Light at Uluru is to showcase how contemporary playing techniques can also create calm, expressive and atmospheric passages, rather than in a modernistic style commonly associated with avant-garde repertoire.

The premiere will include a special theatrical element to enhance the listening soundscape tonal world and visual experience for the audience.

Sydney Conservatorium Wind Symphony premieres Beaugeais’ First Light at Uluru for Wind Symphony on September 24 at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music