For orchestra (2222 4231 Hp 1pc strings)
duration: 16 minutes
record-breakingly fast velocity, rapidly executed activity, juggernaut-like motion, driving in a hurry, a fast-talker, the pace of modern life, amphetamine-based drugs…
SPEED: Before you hear the first note, when you read the title of this work, various connotations such as those above may come to mind. Hindson’s SPEED allows for any or all of these interpretations. Like other works of his that I’ve heard, SPEED sounds like it comes from the mind of a present-day equivalent of the Romantic-era, introverted artist/visionary in the garret, or even the eccentrically brilliant Frankensteinian scientist inventing god-knows-what-new-horror in the lab. But the creator from the last century was locked away in self-imposed exile from the machinations of “real” life, which were too superficial and soulless for such a sensitive nature. Hindson conversely – perversely even – celebrates both the idea of the deepest, philosophical contemplation (SPEED is a meditation on speed), as well as the full gamut of postmodern life with all its ever-accelerating, all-senses-impacting, jolting sensation of rush.
It is part of his perversity that Hindson uses the primary nineteenth-century instrumental force – the symphony orchestra – to create this metaphor for life in the late twentieth century, characterised surely by the increasing prevalence of information technology and digitally synthesised sound. With SPEED, Hindson demolishes modernist pronouncements of the death-of-the-orchestra as a viable, present-day ensemble. He offers a further reading of his piece:he relates that ‘it was strongly influenced by techno music, and wears those influences on its sleeve.’ Techno music and its derivatives – the music of dance and rave parties – contain the following characteristics, which appear in SPEED:repetition, a mainly steady beat, many parallel triads flavouring the harmony, and of course a fast to very fast tempo.
Techno music has a singular energy, which speaks for a certain facet of “underground” society or “street” culture. This is an aspect of great importance to Hindson, who is concerned to acknowledge the wide range of contemporary Australian society’s musical interests. The energy peculiar to more ‘hard-core’ forms of techno has found its way into Hindson’s writing, focussing in particular on its freneticism, which is translated into the intensely gestural, rapid instrumental writing for the instruments, and which the listener can hear in other works by Hindson such as Chrissietina’s Magic Fantasy, AK-47, and Mace (recently released on CD with works by Stuart Greenbaum and John Peterson). Perhaps the most over-riding characteristic common to the “popular” musical forms and Hindson’s SPEED is the level of stamina needed by the musicians to sustain the energy and momentum throughout the work: the composer even suggests it could well have been entitled STAMINA rather than SPEED.
Linked with techno music through the rave party scene are the murky speed/ecstasy types of drugs. While this association is of secondary importance to the inspiration and intended effect of the piece, Hindson captures a sense of the psycho-physical consequences induced by these drugs: invincibility/indestructibility, ecstasy, hyperactivity, paranoia, and again, stamina.
And yet, despite all the hyper-ness qualities of the work, not much stamina is required to experience the piece. Hindson manages – perversely again – to make SPEED an engaging aural treat; it is not hard-going: there is an introverted middle section, and the sonic-blasting outer sections are not in any way repellent. One is left with the impression at the conclusion of the work that it’s all over in a big, first-time-on-the-big-dipper, flash.
© Linda Kouvaras, 1995.
CD Recording Available?
- Released by ABC Classics, March 2000. Includes a bonus remix by PSX. (Out of print but check iTunes)
also available: an analysis and education kit of SPEED for use in classroom/teaching situations, contact the education officer of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for more information on this.
This work featured in Veitstanz: Shake Rattle and Roll, a ballet choreographed by Berndt Schindowski, performed by Ballet Schindowski in Gelsenkirchen, Germany (January – March 2004).
This work featured in Ellipse, a ballet choreographed by Graeme Murphy for the Sydney Dance Company.
“…Referring specifically to Matthew Hindson’s SPEED, funky was probably not the right word but the band were certainly pumping. SPEED is a raging 18 minutes of explosive techno for orchestra.
Powered by a synthetic drum kit, the orchestra pulses along at 130-plus beats per minute, with subtle shifts mimicking a DJ’s spin doctoring. The work begins in a quintessential techno style, with triads and minor seconds. It closes with another classic trope of the genre, brashly heroic fourths and fifths. The double reeds didn’t handle their solos too well but the live strings brought a dramatic edge and presence to the sound – who needs a digital sampler when you have a symphony orchestra?
Part of the fun in this piece is realising how silly you feel sitting in a concert hall at 9.30 PM when the music conjures a warehouse at 3am. Laugh? I nearly wet myself.” – Martin Ball, The Australian, 29 July 1997.
“TSO goes techno,” said the flier. With a repeat of Matthew Hindson’s popular techno spoof Speed to bring in the punters, the TSO relocated its Music of the 20th Century series from the conservatorium to the larger Stanley Burbury Theatre…
And so to Hindson’s Speed. It had me in stitches again, with its brilliant evocation of techno tropes. The strings work overtime in reproducing lines usually reserved for a sequenced synthesiser, and the trombones are just perfect as wailing sirens. Hindson has cut a few minutes of the score since the first performance, bringing the work closer to 15 minutes. One of the effects of this is to highlight the central slow section, where Hindson appears to be saying, “I can write a romantic film score too”. Shameless!.” – Martin Ball, The Australian, 1 May 1998.
“More musical drivel from Matthew Hindson… how does that seem as a way of leading into a word or two on his orchestral piece, Speed? A bit sweeping and dismissive perhaps? Yes, but it is one of the legitimate reactions to Speed, which self-confessedly takes its musical cue from one of the lesser genres of our time. Techno music, nominated by Hindson as his stylistic starting point, is the sort of music you make when you want to grind your heel – ever so nonchalantly – on the old idea of music as a nobly expressive, humane activity.
Its mechanical repetitiveness of figuration and beat is a finger sign to musical as tradition – and, in case you feel like raising a red flag in sympathy, it means the same for the idea of music as revolution. This is music which goes with the spurious sense of immunity a hoon might feel while revving-up a wreck on the way to a fast-food joint; its moments of plastic jubilation, faithfully echoed by Hindson, at best fit the closing shots of the latest action picture schlock.
Of course, there is nothing of the hoon about Hindson. He seems a pleasant young man, undoubtedly talented, who is working at the moment as the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s resident (or, as they say, attached) composer. They wouldn’t let a hoon in there, would they?
In fact, Speed is the soft of pseudo-pop score very much in favour with the musical establishment at the moment. Conductors like a shortish piece which gets under the guard of younger listeners – a majority, as it happens, at this 6.30 PM concert – and makes a lot of people feel they are up with the times without letting its stainless steel finish impinge seriously on their attention. You can jig with the beat – the SSO’s guest conductor, Muhai Tang, shook out a few rumba swivels as he left us in no doubt that he was attuned to the mood of the moment – and there are no indignant exits by members of the audience. If that was new music, that wasn’t so bad, was it? You could be high safely on this Speed.” – Roger Covell, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 August 1999.
“Something a bit different this week, with a single release making my picks of the week. But this is no ordinary single release.
Speed is a new work by young Australian composer Matthew Hindson, who at 32 years of age has already made his mark in the orchestral world…
In its original format, Speed is a work for orchestra, which takes its lead from the urban club scene. Though its mid-section does break down into a gentle eddy of melody highlighted by harp and strings, this, like the beatless breaks which exist within trance and techno music, merely highlights the pace and intensity of opening and closing sequencs where the orchestra powers along at upwards of 130 bpm. Here a synthesised drum beat drives repeated textural motives, within which brass and strings swell and vie for pole position.
Speed is not only thoroughly enjoyable, but also reflective of the innovative works currently being composed for the symphony. Works which make exciting recordings, but which also have the power to draw younger audiences into the fabulous experience of live symphonic performance.”- Review of SPEED [Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, David Porcelijn, conductor (ABC Under Capricorn) ] – Paul Turner , Capital Q Weekly, 13 April 2000.
“SOME very wild sounds greet you at the start of this disc of frenetic music by Matthew Hindson, recognised as a leading figure among Australia’s younger generation of composers. He studied with some of this country’s leading composer-teachers, but the energy would be pure Hindson, perhaps with some Leonard Bernstein inspiration. It is exciting and explores a new facet of symphonic sound. A great voice who does not have to use gimmicks or quirks. Just skill and imagination.” – Review of SPEED [Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, David Porcelijn, conductor (ABC Under Capricorn) ] – Patricia Kelly, The Courier-Mail, 3 June 2000.