The Monkeys’ Bridge (1995) for orchestra was judged as a winner of the 1995 ABC Composers’ Competition and has been recorded by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Mills. Its first public performance was given on 25th November 1996 by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Leif Sundstrup.
According to the very old Indian epic Ramayana, there lived a Prince and Princess named Rama and Sita. Together, they lived for thirteen years in a mystical forest. One fateful day, Sita was kidnapped by a frightful and evil King called Ravana, who took her away to an island. Deciding that he must rescue his wife and defeat the evil King, Prince Rama called upon an army of thousands and thousands of monkeys that he had befriended in the forest. Together, they built a magnificent bridge made of rocks which stretched across the sea to the island where Sita was held captive. With the bridge finished, the fierce battle was set to begin the next day.
The Monkeys’ Bridge (1995) reflects a beautiful atmosphere at the break of dawn as the sun rises over the water to reveal the bridge which is to lead the way to the impending battle. The piece, in three continuous sections, commences with an energetic fanfare for trumpets which unfolds to include woodwinds and builds to a majestic allargando close.
From underneath the final unison note of the first section, a sparkling, tranquil ostinato pattern is revealed, scored for glockenspiel, vibraphone and high strings. This ostinato pattern was inspired by the sounds of the Javanese Gamelan, a traditional performing ensemble which often comprises, amongst other things, voices, gongs, bamboo flutes and numerous ‘metalophones’ of differing sizes. (In some ways, these ‘metalophones’ used in the Gamelan are similar to the metalophones and glockenspiels found in the classroom). The ostinato winds its way through the middle section of the work and might perhaps be thought of as the monkeys’ bridge, over which we hear a gentle oboe and clarinet melody before the full orchestra gradually flowers.
The brief final section of the work recalls the majestic music of the opening bars. Scored now for French horns, it is heard as if from the distance.