(a.k.a. "Chamber Symphony")

Year: 2018 (rev. 2018)
Duration: Approx. 10′
Instrumentation: 1[/pic]111/1111/1perc/hp/pno/1111

Commissioned by The Australian Youth Orchestra for National Music Camp 2018


*WORLD PREMIERE January, 2018 by the Australian Youth Orchestra Faculty at the Annual Composition Concert, Elder Hall, Adelaide, South Australia


“Onward and Upward” (as the name suggests) is a work that is continually pushing forward and always wanting to increase in intensity. The work rarely looks back as it progresses, ever growing and expanding. It introduces and develops a relatively limited amount of melodic pitch content; over time, the layering of voices is accelerated to eventually force horizontal sonorities into vertical ones, polyphony thus becoming micropolyphony. A large emphasis is placed on virtuosity in different ways such that most instruments are given solos and the opportunity to advance the work. A resolution is achieved by the eventual vertical alignment of all forces at the end – hence ‘Upward’. This work was originally premiered in Adelaide, Australia at Elder Hall under the former title “Chamber Symphony”.

On the purely musical front, the work heavily uses polyrhythm and polyphony. When we think about harmony, we generally consider it as occurring either vertically as a chord, or horizontally as a melody/line. I thought it would be interesting to consider what happens when a melody is sped up infinitely, in that as it accelerates, we perceive the horizontal melody more like a chord or vertical sonority. Polyphony itself is the layering of independent lines, its beauty being that listeners can distinguish each voice/line as it unfolds. Micropolyphony is polyphony operating on a much smaller time scale – so quickly that individual lines cannot be distinguished, but instead resulting in a particular texture. In this piece I start with a plainly presented idea/melody in the cello; introduce addition lines through fugal imitation; develop the idea gradually through motivic development and the introduction of increasingly dense polyrhythmic, micropolyphonic lines; and ultimately create a mesh/fabric from which (not to spoil the ending) all instruments eventually click into place on the same beat for the first time. The result is the transformation from a horizontal melody and harmony into a lively, activated vertical harmony.


The Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp took place in January of 2018 over two intensive weeks in Adelaide.

This work was written during the camp under the guidance of mentor Gerard Brophy and the program faculty.

An interview while I was at National Music Camp can be heard using the Soundcloud player above.

Onward & Upward -web 3
Onward & Upward - Web