The third question in the 2016 VCE Music Style and Composition Exam.
Excerpt: George Deryfus, Sextet for didjeridu and Wind Ensemble
(1 minute 4 seconds)
Discuss how contrast is used in this excerpt
The didgeridoo and woodwind instruments set up contrast immediately through articulation and tone colour. The didgeridoo has legato articulation of the drone which is punctuated by rhythmic pulses. It plays with an airy, reverberant tone colour with nasal overtones. The woodwind instruments play with short, staccato notes and have a bright, clear tone colour at a much higher pitch which contrasts with the lower pitch of the didgeridoo.
Rhythmically, the pulse of the didgeridoo is a little unclear due to the irregular frequency of accented pulses. The woodwind instruments seem to have a very strict sense of time within their played phrases. Initial short phrases contain flowing, quavers with sharp attack and almost instantaneous decay.
The length of didgeridoo phrases is fairly continuous due to the nature of circular breathing. This provides an underlying textural layer. At one point the lower, reverberant pitch is contrasted by a higher pitched, warm blown note on the same instrument.
Phrase lengths in the woodwinds contrast. They begin being momentary – less than a bar in length then extend upon each repetition. Short phrases have sharper, accented notes which contrasts to some longer phrases which are played more legato as the piece progresses.
Short opening phrases which are rhythmic in nature and scalic, wavelike in contour are contrasted with a single rhythmic unison accented beat. This contrast of short duration to long continues as a pattern.
Towards the end of the excerpt some longer phrases are played with staccato articulation while others with similar melodic approach are contrasted with the use of legato articulation and a softer dynamic.
The initial woodwind phrase has an ascending contour and is in unison. In contrast, other phrases are treated using weaving contour – all contours are wavelike, they just ascend and descend at different times, though most use rhythmic unison to a greater or lesser degree.