"The streaming of the sun and the flowing of the stars": D.H. Lawrence and Peter Sculthorpe

Richards, Fiona (2015). "The streaming of the sun and the flowing of the stars": D.H. Lawrence and Peter Sculthorpe. Journal of D.H.Lawrence Studies, 3(3) pp. 33–50.


In June 1922 D. H. Lawrence took up residence in the seaside town of Thirroul in New South Wales. While there he produced a number of poems and his innovative novel Kangaroo. This work had a far-reaching and long-lasting influence on Australian artists, writers and composers, most notably Peter Sculthorpe (b. 1929), whose autobiography, Sun Music, contains numerous references to the writer. This paper looks at Sculthorpe’s transformations of Lawrence’s words into music. In 1960 he produced his song cycle, Sun, setting three of Lawrence’s poems, the last of which was “Sun in Me”. He returned to this text the following year while writing Irkanda IV for solo violin, strings and percussion, translating the song into a wordless violin coda. This piece brings together many extra-musical associations. It is an elegy for the composer’s father, who died in 1961, and it also derives from some descriptive passages in Kangaroo. The Lawrence theme continued two years later with The Fifth Continent (1963), for speaker, didgeridoo and wind sounds, and chamber orchestra, and in 1976 an independent piece, Small Town, was extracted from this work. Most recently, Sculthorpe returned to his original song cycle, revising it for publication for voice and piano in 2010. The article includes consideration of the context of Lawrence in Australia, the impact of the writer on Sculthorpe’s pantheistic love of landscape and the sun, and at the ways in which a single poem has informed a fifty-year period in the composer’s life.

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