2012 Analysis Response Question 17

2012 Analysis Response Question 17

Question 17 

Work: ‘The Brumbies from ‘The Man From Snowy River’

Artist/Composer: Bruce Rowland

2 minutes 8 seconds

How do performers manipulate expressive elements to communicate tension within this work? In your response refer to at least two of the following:

  • Articulation
  • Dynamic Range
  • Tempo Choice
  • Tone Colour


Tone colour:


The introductory low, rumbling, reverberant drone immediately creates a tense character through extremely low pitch and sparse texture.  This is interrupted by a bright, sharp trumpet call and nasal, harsh tone of the strings at higher pitch. Tension through tone colour is conveyed through interrupting one tone colour with extreme contrast from another instrument as in these cases.


The relentless biting, raw tone colour of repeated beats played martelé by the upper strings at fairly low register increase tension and thicken the texture.


Tone colours are often at the harsh end of the spectrum. The descending cello melody has a biting, nasal colour through the use of tight vibrato and firm bow pressure creating a loud dynamic. This is doubled at the octave with the bass to give it a fuller, rounder overall tone colour. Due to the harshness of the upper line, this tone colour still creates tension.


The upper strings playing accents at high register also have a harsh, biting tone and use fairly tight vibrato to enhance this.


In comparison, the cutting snare near the end is quite mellow due to soft dynamic level. This creates tension through a sense of restraint.




Use of accented tremolo strings conveys tension, particularly as these notes are dissonant in harmony. Repeated crotchets in the strings are detached yet accented increasing the tension.  This motif is repeated numerous times throughout the work using different instrumentation but always with the same relentless separate, accented articulation.


Slight glissando up the 8ve for trumpet ‘call’ emphasises each note and brings the line forward increasing tension through contrast with other parts (particularly the legato relentless drone). This is repeated later with the glissando more marked, increasing tension further still.


Accented, sharp attack from timpani with booming, ringing decay increases tension as does the legato but accented syncopated descending cello line.




The initial soft dynamics of the low drone feels tense already due to its extreme register. The interjections from strings and trumpet are much louder by comparison and increase tension as a result.


Accented notes are often made louder through thick texture harmonised using dissonance.


The overall approach to dynamics is tense due to an unstable overall approach.  Moments of silence are interrupted by timpani accents in the opening passage. Equally, diminuendo towards the end of cello phrases, which seem to decrease tension are contrasted with loud, dissonant string crotchets.


Syncopated accents are made louder through rhythmic unison with strings, brass and cymbal clashes. Intense, short dynamic swells increase tension through their brevity.


Tempo choice:


Tempo choice conveys tension through lack of stability. While there are sections where the tempo is quite stable, this is maintained through the relentless, tense, repeated crotchet motif.  The tempo itself being quite fast with an emphasis on each beat increases the tension. At other times the tempo is hard to define. The opening drone has no clear beat. When the fast tempo is established it is made tense through comparison and sudden change. Periods of silence blur the sense of the beat increasing tension.


While some sections seem to slow down towards the end the new section is usually at a faster tempo. Particularly when this happens to be the crotchet motif, this increases tension.


Towards the climactic point, the tempo actually slows down slightly and the crotchet motif is lower to mark the change and more brooding intensity of this section. As with other sections, the beat is clear until the crotchet motif drops out. When this happens, the tempo is less predictable and therefore more tense.