MACQUARIE, for rapper Luka Lesson & orchestra
an orchestral-hiphop interrogation of the legacy of Lachlan Macquarie
by Luka Lesson (words) & Gordon Hamilton (music)
"Poetry and orchestra became vehicles for a powerful interrogation of Australian history and its habit of overlooking the horrible realities to focus on our nation’s advancement... Luka is masterful in his ability to weave words into heartbreaking, near cinematic life. The only sounds outside the music and the poetry were the gasps of the audience and a well-earned standing ovation. Truthfully, I’m just not sure anything could follow ‘Macquarie’ and garner the same attention and awe...“ – Kyley Thompson for Scenestr.com [read in full]
The Macquarie concerto was inspired by events both in Australia and in the southern states of the USA, where statues of confederate fighters are being torn down because of their roles in supporting slavery during the civil war. Here as well, there is contention about whether we should be honouring people who advanced the colony while advocating for the oppression of Indigenous peoples. Macquarie himself is seen by some as a hero, and others as a villain. A hero in that he established the first bank and currency and advanced Sydney from a colonial village to a burgeoning city. And a villain in that it was through his hunger for perpetual growth that he also established the first institution for Aboriginal children to be taken from their families and be placed into government care, and ordered the first government sanctioned massacre of Indigenous people. The Appin massacre resulted in 14 deaths, with body parts of two of those killed sent to Edinburgh for scientific study, where they remain today. This work asks the questions: Do these actions reverberate in the way we as Australians treat each other today?
Although Macquarie is not an opera, it is operatic in that a solo voice conspires with an orchestra to tell a story. A three-note leitmotif (B-G-F#) – representing ambition – is first heard hauntingly on the E-flat clarinet and recurs across four of the five movements (though not the third, a celebration of nature). Sometimes the music crystallises into four-bar phrases (a natural fit for hiphop and rap). This is often not the case, though: the third movement is an organic tangle of irregular phrases (both in the music and in the text). The music from the opening returns at the close of the work, Macquarie’s grave. Here it's played out of time, without the rhythmic fortitude of the young Macquarie. The harmony – like his story – is far more ambiguous at the end than at the start.
2 orchestrations exist:
2*.1.EbCl.BassCl.2* – 1.1.10 – 1pc. – synth. – 126.96.36.199.1 (identical to the John Adams Chamber Symphony)
2.picc.2.2.BassCl.2* – 188.8.131.52 – 2pc. – timp. – synth. – full str.