The Origin Cycle

The Origin Cycle

Hear it here.

Co-sponsors: NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, The Australian Council

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body

NEWS: The Origin Cycle is a finalist in two categories at the Australian ART Music Awards, 2011

The categories are:

PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR (for the Sydney performance, with Ensemble Offspring)


More information is here:

The award ceremony is on May 3, 2011.

Charles Darwin's Origin of Species is not only one of the most important scientific works of all time, but one of the most beautifully written. In The Origin Cycle, six contemporary composers set fragments of Darwin's great book to music, for performance by solo soprano and chamber ensemble. In celebration of the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and 150 years since the Origin, the world premiere performance took place in April, 2009 among the exhibits of Harvard's Natural History Museum.

          The passages chosen encompass the entire work, capturing the many facets of a Darwinian view of nature, and summarizing what Darwin called the "one long argument" contained in the Origin. They include the passages introducing his most famous and enduring images – the growing "tree of life" connecting all species, the vision of nature as an surface into which wedges are unceasingly struck, and the book's final invocation of "grandeur in this view of life." They also include Darwin's meticulous description of the construction of honeycomb by worker bees. Each passage has been matched with the musical style of one of the composers: Elliot Gyger, Elena Kats-Chernin (whose music was featured at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games), Dmitri Tymoczko, Rosalind Page, Paul Stanhope (winner of the 2004 Takemitsu Prize for composition), and Kate Neal. The works will be performed by soprano Jane Sheldon and the Firebird Ensemble, a leading Boston ensemble specializing in new music.

Composers working on The Origin Cycle

Elliot Gyger:

Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1968, Elliot's composition teachers included Ross Edwards,
Peter Sculthorpe, Bernard Rands and Mario Davidovsky. He holds a Bachelor of Music
from the University of Sydney (1990) and a Ph.D. in Music from Harvard University
(2002). He has lived in Boston, Massachusetts, since 1996. He attended Australia's
National Orchestral Composers' School in 1990 and 1993, and the Wellesley Composers'
Conference in 2000. He was the Australian representative at FORUM 96 in Montréal.
Awards have included the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Fellowship, the Walter Hinrichsen
Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and commission grants from the
Australia Council and the Fromm Foundation. He was in residence at La Mortella on
Ischia for the month of July 2003, as the inaugural Harvard-Walton Fellow.
Elliott's music has been played by many of Australia's major performing groups,
including the Australia Ensemble, Sydney Alpha Ensemble, the Song Company,
Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Halcyon, and the Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, as well as North American groups such as the
Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the New York New Music Ensemble, Columbia
Sinfonietta, Collage, and the Emerson, Mendelssohn and Ying Quartets. His work has
been heard at the Sonic Boom Festival and the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary
Music. 25 Songs, a collaborative work with visual artist Joe Felber for which he
created a 21-minute "score" for prerecorded voices, has been exhibited in major
galleries in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Singapore. Recent premieres have
included Soli (2003), for the Ying Quartet; Temptation in the Desert (2005), for
Boston's Seraphim Singers; and From the hungry waiting country (2006), for Halcyon,
which was highly commended in the 2006 Paul Lowin Song Cycle Award. Two CDs
of his music are in preparation: one of sacred choral works on the Boston-based Arsis
label; and one of ensemble music on ABC Classics.

Rosalind Page:

Rosalind studied composition at Sydney Conservatorium of Music from 1990-91 with
further studies in North America, graduating with a B.A. (Mus) Summa cum laude from
the University of Delaware, USA. In 1994 she was honoured as a winner of the
University of Delaware's Edward H. Rosenberry Award for Excellence in Writing. Upon
return to Australia, Page studied at the University of New South Wales, receiving a
Master of Arts (Theatre and Film Studies) in 1996 for her research into sound and image
relationships in the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. In 2006, she completed her PhD in
Composition with Ross Edwards at the University of Sydney.
Diverse musical interests have resulted in work with Gamelan Lake of the Silver Bear
(USA), Melbourne Theatre Company (composer for the Australian premiere of Brian
Friel's Molly Sweeney, directed by Jenny Kemp), New Music Tasmania, Sydney Spring
International Festival of New Music, Halcyon, Sydney Youth Orchestra, The Song
Company, Sydney Philharmonia, OneExtra and NOISE ensemble (USA).
In 2003, Page shared the dual role of dramaturg and sound/music composer for Mary
Sitarenos' Victorian College of the Arts world premiere production Red Shoes. Recent
theatre work has included composer/sound designer for the second stage development of
choreographer/director Dean Walsh's Back From Front (2006) and electronic music for
Dean's solo unspeak able, with recent performances in Japan. Receiving a Highly
Commended Award in the prestigious 2004 Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize, Fracture, a noh
play for cello and orchestra (2004) - an interpretation of Shakespeare's King Lear and
Akira Kurosawa's RAN - was commissioned by Ars Musica Australis and written
especially for virtuosic cellist Geoff Gartner. In 2006, Page's song cycle Sonetos del
Amor Oscuro (2004) - commissioned by Halcyon and setting texts by Federico García
Lorca - was awarded the 2006 Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize.

Elena Kats-Chernin:

Born in the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent, in 1975 she and her family emigrated from
the Soviet Union to Australia. She studied composition with Richard Toop, graduating in
1980, and then studied with Helmut Lachenmann in Hanover, Germany, with the
assistance of a DAAD Fellowship.

While in Europe Kats-Chernin became active in theatre and ballet, composing for state
theatres in Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg and Bochum, specifically working with renowned
choreographer Reinhild Hoffmann. Her music attracted the attention of the Ensemble
Modern and in 1993 she wrote her breakthrough work Clocks for them. It has since been
performed around the world, including UK, Denmark, Holland, Finland, USA and

Kats-Chernin remained in Germany for 13 years, returning to Australia in 1994. Since
her return, she has written three chamber operas (Iphis, Matricide and Undertow), two
piano concertos and works for many performers and ensembles as well as for the "Deep
Sea Dreaming" Segment of the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games, 2000.
She has also written soundtracks for three silent films for the European TV channel
ZDF/arte: Victor Sostrom's Phantom Chariot (Swedish title Korkarlen), Billy Wilder's
and Robert Siodmak's People on Sunday (German title Menschen am Sonntag) and Crisis
(German title Abwege) of G.W. Pabst.

In 1996 Kats-Chernin received the Jean Bogan Memorial Prize for piano solo piece
Charleston Noir and the Sounds Australian Award for Cadences, Deviations and
Scarlatti for 14 instruments. Six portrait CDs of Kats-Chernin's music have been released
so far, on labels including ABC Classics, the German label Wergo, Signum (UK), and,
most recently, Chamber of Horrors on Tall Poppies. Her score for the ballet Wild Swans,
based on the fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen received acclaimed premiere seasons in Sydney and Melbourne and was broadcast on ABC TV in December 2003. In 2004
EKC was awarded the Green Room Award and the Helpmann Award for this score in the
category "best original score".

In October 2003 Kats-Chernin wrote music for the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony
and in 2004 she was awarded a two-year Fellowship from the Australia Council to work
with Meryl Tankard on a new dance/opera project based on life and work of Henri

Kate Neal:

Kate studied Early Music at the Victorian College of the Arts graduating with a Bachelor
of Performance 1996. During this time she also studied composition with Mary Finsterer,
Mark Pollard and Brenton Broadstock. Kate received a NUFFIC scholarship from the
Dutch Government in 1998 and moved to The Netherlands to study composition with
Louis Andriessen, Martijn Padding and Gilius van Bergeijk at the Koninklijk
Conservatory, and Carnatic (Sth Indian) music studies with Rafael Rainer at the Sweelink
Conservatory, Amsterdam. In 2000 Kate was awarded equal first prize in the
International Young Composers Meeting and a special mention in the Henriette Bosmans

She returned to Melbourne, Australia in 2003, establishing her events company Dead
Horse Productions. In August 2005 Kate received a scholarship from the Accademia
Musicale Chigiana, Siena Italy and studied under Maestro Corghi and Ensemble. In 2006
Kate was the recipient of the Hephzibah Tintner Fellowship, working in conjunction with
Australian Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
In July 2006 Kate worked as orchestrator for the new Greg Mclean film Rogue, and was
an Artist in Residence at the Atlantic Centre for the Arts, Florida under Syd Hodkinson.
In 2007 Kate presented new works at the Arts Centre (Full-Tilt); The Forum Theatre;
Melbourne International Festival of the Arts, and received a scholarship from the ASPEN music festival where she premiered a new piano trio. Kate was awarded a project
fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts in August 2007 to develop the largescale
theatre work Semaphore.

Paul Stanhope:

Paul Stanhope studied with Andrew Schultz and Peter Sculthorpe in Australia before
being awarded the Charles Mackerras Scholarship which enabled him to study for a
time at the Guildhall School of Music in London. In May 2004 Paul was awarded first
place in the prestigious Toru Takemitsu Composition Prize. Further international
exposure ensued when his music featured in the “Boy on the Bay” segment of the
Melbourne Commonwealth Games opening ceremony held in March 2006, and broadcast
to a worldwide audience of over a billion people.

In recent years, Stanhope has become well-known for his orchestral works. In
addition to his Takemitsu-prize piece, Fantasia on a Theme by Vaughan Williams
which has been performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic as well as the Melbourne and
Sydney Symphony Orchestras, Stanhope’s other recent orchestral works include
Cloudforms (2007) written for the Tasmanian Symphony, Machinations (2006) for
the Melbourne Symphony, Spin Dance (2005) for Sydney Sinfonia, and Yanihndi
(2003) – a concerto for Oboe, Harp and strings.

Final Report Available upon request.