4 Minutes in a Nuclear Bunker
for orchestra (1995)
3 (picc.).3 (cor). 3 (bass cl.) .3(contr) 4.3.3.1 hrp, timp+2 strings
duration: 4’
GRT • 028


audio sample






score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
This piece is dedicated to the English novelist, Martin Amis. Living under the constant possibility of nuclear holocaust has been a theme of his novels that has stayed with me. In this piece, I wanted to create a psycho-emotive 'tone-poem' based on the following predicament:

News emerges of a launched nuclear missile attack. Panic spreads; people are running in different directions. Some find their way down into a bunker. Various doors are sealed. Amidst the palpable adrenaline rush, these people nevertheless perform the necessary routine and duty with speed and diligence. Then they gather in a specified area and wait. This is where my piece begins. The shouting has stopped. Only heavy breathing is audible. Nobody speaks. The next three minutes represent the waiting game. It is slightly damp, cold, claustrophobic and so quiet that the head begins to hum in anticipation. This humming continues to build and distort until there is a blinding flash, visible through a narrow protected screen. The blinding light has a purity to it and brings a sense of relief. The waiting is over. But what is left? What is it like up on the surface? I imagine that I can hear distant songs of children in unrelated time and key.