Year: 2014

Duration: Approx. 9″

Instrumentation: Solo Bass Clarinet or Bass Clarinet and Strings [33221]

Commissioned for solo bass clarinet by the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Perth, Western Australia for the exhibition titled: “Memento Mori Exhibition.”


*WORLD PREMIERE: November, 2014 by Ashley Smith (Bass Clarinet), Raymond Yong (Conductor) & Strings as part of Portraits of The University of Western Australia at St George’s College, Perth, Western Australia.
*Recorded & Published: September, 2014 by Ashley Smith, Memento Mori Exhibit Album, The University of Western Australia, Australia.


“Respiration” is a work that describes my experience of witnessing Cheyne-Stokes respiration, a type of breathing exhibited by humans and animals close to death. The Cheyne-Stokes respiration cycle is characterised by progressively deeper and faster breathing, followed by a gradual decrease that results in stops in breathing for extended periods. As the breaths drew further apart I would wait anxiously for the next, not knowing if it was to be the last. This process very much sets the form of the work. The bass clarinet musters increasingly desperate melodic gestures between the ever-growing gaps of breathless silence to which it eventually succumbs. The process is narrated by a simple string accompaniment echoing my own feelings of fright, despair, sorrow and eventually, relief. The work was premiered under the name “Elegy for a Duck” – its writing was prompted by watching an injured duck slowly pass en route to the veterinary hospital. This sad experience became particularly haunting once I realised the duck was not the first time I’d heard Cheyne-Stokes respiration.


Portraits of The University of Western Australia was a concert and photographic exhibit that presented a series of musical portraits of various aspects of the University and university life from throughout my time as an undergraduate.

The event was held on November 2, 2014 and was attended by the University Chancellor Michael Chaney and Emeritus Chancellor Alex Cohen. The photographs from the exhibit remain on display in the Elsey Room of St George’s College, Western Australia.

Portraits of UWA- The Peacock - Web
Portraits of UWA - Reflection Pond-web


The solo version of this work was commissioned by the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery as part of their exhibition “Memento Mori” by Professor Ted Snell. The work was recorded and published on the album Memento Mori Compositions and covered by The Australian.