for orchestra (3 picc(II+III=fl).2.ca.Ebcl.1.bcl.2.cbsn – 5331 – timp – perc(2): wind chimes/3 c.bell/2 wdbl/bongos/3 roto-t/brake drum/tom-t/susp.cym/hi-hat/anvil/tam-t/SD/2 BD+foot.ped/BD – harp – solo amplified 1/8 violin – strings)
duration: 14 minutes
Homage to Metallica was written by Matthew Hindson in 1993 “not just as a tribute to this particular band, but rather to the whole genre of heavy metal music’. The listener needs no knowledge of Metallica songs to be taken into Hindson’s fantastical world.
Heavy metal music often centres around the ‘evil’ interval of the tritone and the semitone. These intervals are found in the Locrian mode which some centuries earlier was consider an illegal interval. The ‘illegal’ takes on a more confronting reality in the heavy metal world of dark satanic fantasy. But Hindson is not trying to encourage devil worship; rather, he is attracted to “the extreme sense of theatricality, virtuosity and rhythmic energy that is so representative of this style”.
Instrumentally, the use of a 1/8th sized solo violin may at first appear to belong to the school string class (and indeed this is where Hindson, a string co-ordinator at MLC School, conceived the idea) but once amplified and played in ‘thrash’ style it becomes an entirely different musical weapon. The small fingerboard allows for rapid leaps, while wide glissandi and the scratchy tone (this is no Strad!) helps to conjure the timbre of a distortion guitar.
Distinctive melodic lines in parallel semitones are featured in the solo violin and also in the trombones (chosen partly for their glissandi capability) which take on the timbre of a car horn or, as in the opening of the piece, and air-raid siren. One is alternatively flung between ‘road rage’ and ‘War of the Universe’.
Homage to Metallica, however, does not exist in a completely dark world. There are passages of ecstatic tonal harmony towards which the music is often moving. These brilliant major-chord hues are just as crucial to the piece as the dark menace of the Locrian-based harmony, and one only needs to look at Hindson’s catalogue of works to find similar ideas in pieces such as In Search of Ecstasy, Rave-Elation and Chrissietina’s Magic Fantasy.
Written for large orchestra with triple winds, the piece opens with massive orchestral blows measured out by glissandi trombones and the explosive clanging anvil which tolls like a prelude to Armageddon. The orchestra builds up to an ecstatic melÃ©e of virtuosity before subsiding to solitary harp arpeggios in E minor. Soulful melodies in the cor anglais and solo viola start a process of textural crescendo which leads to a passage for the solo violin. This sets up the thrash (‘rhythmic energy’) in repeated notes which remain for the majority of the piece, reinforced by pounding bass drum crotchets and (later) racing rototom patterns. The melodic material here is modally clear in a style of high drama.
A second passage for the solo violin, this time a cadenza, suspends rhythmic motion in favour of a more solitary exploration of the instrument — heavy metal Paganini! The coda is marked ‘apocalyptic’ and brass triads alternate in E and B flat major (a tritone apart) creating an aura of Wagnerian splendour underscored by the thrash motive in one last surge towards ecstasy in E major.
© Stuart Greenbaum, 1997
“Entertainment, of the colour and movement variety, was the essence of Matthew Hindson’s hopefully tongue-in-cheek Homage to Metallica, which had the whole orchestra playing like the clappers to produce a white-nose accompaniment to Brian Porter’s portrayal of a quarter-size violinist from hell.” – The Adelaide Advertiser, 11 September 1993.
“Simone Young is not one to do things by halves. Her programme for last weeks’ “Meet the Music” concert made great demands on herself and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra: No less important, it was a refreshing and stimulating occasion for the responsive, young audience.
She began and closed that evening with modern music… In her very concise remarks to the audience, Ms. Young offered two challenging suggestions.
The first was that, in drawing upon the “heavy metal” fashion, Hindson is following a long tradition of classical composers using folk material…
The tough, confronting, repetitive chords of Metallica, its more sentimental (and palling) middle section and its dancing, concluding pages with the, well, “folkish”, if you insist, rasping, amplified “Kit-fiddle” (eighth-sized violin) all held the attention. The piece definitely warrants repeating. ” – John Carmody , The Sun-Herald – Timeout, 24 August, 1997.
AS ITS title proclaims, Matthew Hindson’s Homage to Metallica has been prompted by a well-known group working in the genre usually called heavy metal rock.
Most people associate heavy metal with, among other things, loudness. Was Homage to Metallica unusually loud in its first performance in the Opera House by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra? No. Other attributes commonly assigned to heavy metal are an exceptionally aggressive beat and dark or actively provocative words. There were no words in this wholly orchestral piece and no rock-type beat, not even in the clanging opening chords.
So what is the point of the title? Hindson seems to be paying tribute to the ability of Metallica to invent variations on stereotyped heavy metal formulas and its capacity for stepping outside the implications of its generic label. His own score abandons the aggression of its initial gestures quite quickly. We hear chord sliding into chord in a surprisingly conventional sequence – and then the solo viola, beautifully played by Caroline Henbest (on loan from the Australian Chamber Orchestra) sings a reflective and beautiful modal melody that might have come from a meditative idyll by Vaughan Williams or Koda’ly.
The most sustained resumption of forceful and strident music occurs when the orchestra reinforces the blistering attack achieved by Martin Lass in playing a one-eighth-size violin with a contact mike attached. The actual sound of the instrument, played and amplified in this way, is like a magnification of the effect produced by some pre-electric 78 rpm records when activated with a heavy steel stylus (heavy metal again). It is an interesting and memorable timbre, especially when activated with the skill and commitment that Lass brought to it and helped ensure a welcome for Hindson’s deliberately inconsistent work, with its alternations of the roles of tiger and lamb.
Homage to Metallica was the opening gesture in one of the most inviting and enjoyable programs ever assembled for the SSO’s 6.30 pm series. ” – Roger Covell, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Aug 1997
CD Recording Available?
Not yet. However, a live recording of the piece is available through the Australian Music Centre library.
This work featured in Ellipse, a ballet choreographed by Graeme Murphy for the Sydney Dance Company, which toured Australia and the US.
Also available: an analysis and classroom kit based on Homage to Metallica is available through the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.