The Hanging Bulb

by Anthony Ritchie, for orchestra, Opus 36

In four connected sections, this work is intense in mood and strong in its rhythms and melodic cells. A personal work, beautiful and sensitive, expressing the images of sadness and despair.

Programme Note

The Hanging Bulb was commissioned by The Dunedin Sinfonia while the composer was Mozart Fellow at Otago University. It consists of a continuous movement, divided into four sections: slow, fast, slow, fast. Sections 1 and 2 are thematically related, as are sections 3 and 4, so the structure could be described as a double couplet.

The work expresses particular emotional and psychological states of mind, encapsulated in the title of the work which is an image of despair. Hanging light bulbs have been associated with despair and obsession in the world of art and in the real world. They became a significant image to the composer at the time of writing this piece, which was not born in happy circumstances. Tension in the music is created through extensive use of the octatonic scale, bi-modal effects and thickly layered chords (such as occur near the end). The xylophone and bass drum are used as symbols of cruelty, while the piano has an important 'personal'statement in the first section. The last section has an obsessional quality which is expressed through repeated rhythms and motifs.

A music resource for secondary schools is available for this work from SOUNZ.