Coral Bells

In 2015, Victorian composer Dr Brigid Burke was awarded an Australia Council grant to create a work for the Federation Handbells called "Coral Bells".

The composition uses the Federation Handbells to provide deepening connections with the Australian landscape.

It was first performed by Brigid Burke (bass clarinet, live electronics and video) and Carmen Chan, Erica Rasmussen and Wendy Couch (Federation Handbells) as part of the Tilde Festival in 2016.

It is a thirty minute, audio-visual composition for Federation Handbells, bass clarinet, acousmatic sound and video projection in four movements. It involves both pre-recorded material and live performance.

Acousmatic music

The acousmatic music technique used in "Coral Bells" stems from a compositional tradition that dates back to the introduction of musique concrète in the late 1940s. It is a form of electroacoustic recorded music that is specifically composed for presentation using speakers and often uses recordings taken from the world around us as a significant source of sound material.

"Coral Bells" uses recordings of both the ecosystems of coral from Fitzroy Island in Northern Australia and the complex sounds of the bass clarinet and the Federation Handbells. These are explored through the spatialisation of sounds heard via multiple speakers.

The resources

We are excited to include "Coral Bells" as a freely available resource through the Federation Handbells website.

You will find on this site:

  • "Coral Bells" score in four movements for Federation Handbells, bass clarinet, acousmatic sound and video (please note there is no written score for movement three as this is acousmatic and video work only)
  • "Coral Bells" acousmatic and video parts in four movements
  • Composer's notes
  • Video excerpts of the premiere performance of "Coral Bells" at the Tilde Festival in 2016

Composer Brigid Burke

Dr Brigid Burke is an Australian composer, performance artist, clarinet soloist, visual artist, video artist and educator whose creative practice explores the use of acoustic sound and technology to enable media performances and installations that are rich in aural and visual nuances. Her work is widely presented in concerts, festivals and radio broadcasts throughout Australia, Asia, Europe and the USA.

Recently she has been a recipient of an Australia Council Project Music Fellowship and two new work commissions, "Coral Bells" and "Instincts and Episodes". She has been an Artist in Residence at Marshall University USA (with an Edwards Distinguished Professor Artist Residency), Indiana University USA and ADM NTU Singapore.

She also recently presented works on the Big Screen at Federation Square in Melbourne; at the Tilde Festival; on ABC Classic FM, and at the International Media Festival at the Trafačka Arena in Prague.

She has a PhD in Composition from UTAS and a Master of Music in Composition from University of Melbourne.

Composer's notes

"Coral Bells" is a quartet for two sets of Federation Handbells, bass clarinet (or other instrumentalist), acousmatic sound and video.

The artistic rationale is to explore the diverse overtone, microtone sounds of the Federation Handbells and bass clarinet with the discrete sounds of the ecosystems of coral from Fitzroy Island Northern Australia.

Acoustic resonators on the Federation Handbells vibrate with the coral and are recreated into visual images of moving glass objects. White/grey textures, sepia, hints of pastel colours, burnt reds, yellows and gold images are layered to create a thick timbrel texture that forms the video voice.

The sounds of subtle high pitched bells, gritty sand sounds and bass clarinet periodically join the drones with discordant multiphonics. Flourishes of notes dominate throughout.

Subsequent acoustic and visual motifs capture and emerge sonically/visually creating timbre layers of the interpreted coral and glass reflections.

Technical requirements for performance

  • 6 to 8 matched powered speakers with stands
  • DI box for stereo sends from 8 track M-Audio sound module
  • Sound/video/lighting engineer
  • Speaker 5 & 6 acoustic instruments only. 1,2,3,4,7 & 8 electronic sound
  • 1 x 90cm x 60cm table
  • 1 x chairs (stool preferable)
  • 2 x 6.35mm plugs line out from stage mixer into main audio mixer
  • 2 x instrumental microphones 2 vocal mic.
  • Data video projector
  • Screen or white wall to fill back of stage
  • TV monitor on stage for video fold-back
  • Laptop computer
  • M-Audio sound module
  • Video mixer
  • Musical instruments
  • Federation Handbells 1 x Standard set and 1 x Quarter-tone set provided by Museums Victoria
  • 4 x Music stands


Coral Bells score: Movement 1

Coral Bells score: Movement 2

Coral Bells score: Movement 4

Coral Bells score: technical requirements

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