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This kit created with support of
Santa Sabina College and
Ensemble Offspring, for the 2021

Santa Sabina "Australian Music Day".

Visiting Eucalyptus


In 2017-18 Damian Barbeler travelled 

South East Australia photographing Eucalyptus

trees as inspiration for a collection of musical

and visual art works including a new concert

work entitled - Visiting Eucalyptus

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Live Workshop - October 2021

Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021


Eucalyptus trees are a startlingly diverse family. The Artistic Vision for Visiting Eucalyptus was to highlight this diversity and celebrate this most famous Australian tree.

When we think of the Australian bush, we often fall on stereotype imagery. However the Australian bush is far more rich and varied. Visiting Eucalyptus then, was an invitation to fall in love with the true Australian landscape.

Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021

Meeting Eucalyptus Trees

Gathering inspiration involved travelling around Australia's east coast "visiting" Eucalyptus trees: photographing, filming, sketching and composing on location: as painters would call it "en plein air" (in the open air).

From this experience Damian Barbeler and Tim Jetis created a collection of artworks:

a musical concert work, photographic installation, an art film and book.

Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021

Artistic Vision

The Visiting Eucalyptus concert work structure is essentially a series of "forests in Sound". The listener is invited to imagine passing through a Eucalyptus forest. Paper sketches (on the left) capture Barbeler's first thoughts on this idea.

Barbeler was partly influenced in this musical design by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Many of his works depict the passage of a person through a landscape. A beautiful example is the 1998 work Tree Line.

The 18 minute concert work Visiting Eucalyptus is for violin, cello, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, classical accordion, piano and 2 percussion. It was premiered at the Four Winds 2018 Easter Festival. The work was premiered in the bush near Bermagui on the south coast of NSW in the Four Winds "Sound Shell".

Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021

Composing a Forest

To compose forests in sound Barbeler layers short motives to create textures. In one case the botanical names of gum trees are set to simple rising arpeggios. Performers must use the names as speech patterns to inform their interpretation of the motives.

Click excerpt below to hear these gum trees in Visiting Eucalyptus.

Eucalyptus Names Excerpt

Using words to compose instrumental melodies is a surprisingly common technique. The film composer John Williams does this, however Barbeler learned the technique from Peter Sculthorpe for example in his String Quartet No.6 and the end of the 2nd movement of his The Fifth Continent "Outback".

Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021

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Bark and Leaves

Visiting Eucalyptus uses a simple single note motive. Variations of this motive appear over and over in different instruments. Dovetailed layering creates a sense of the forest. The earlier rising tree texture evokes wide and open trunks. This forest is more dense, and closer features likie the bark and leaves come to mind.

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Initially this repeating note texture gives a gentle, lilting feeling: like dappled light through leaves. Eventually these repeating note phrases start to include winding chromatic notes, creating the impression of a dense, dark forest.

Softening the Barline

The music here is composed asymmetrically to "soften the barline". This reduces the sense of time signature and pulse making the music more organic. (click to see diagram)  Strategies include:

- phrases often start on weak parts of the bar (not beat one)

- phases are different lengths

- dovetailing = phrases in different instruments overlap, smoothing the music

- staggered swelling dynamics are loud at different times in different instruments

- notes tie across the barline

- changing rhythmic subdivisions and articulations

Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021


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A simple lyrical melody winds through the forest textures. Barbeler wrote this melody while visiting Tunks Hill in Lane Cove National Park in Sydney. The above image was taken that day. The angular patterns and sections of bark peeling off a Spotted Gum inspired the "up-then-down" leaping intervals of the melody.

Click to hear melody

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The melody is an emotional foreground to the forest, as if we are sensing the thoughts of a person passing through. A similar approach appears in Debussy's La Mer where textures depict the flow of the sea, and with melodies express a persons feelings watching the sea. In the quartet version of Visiting Eucalyptus variations on this melody appear across the work, but especially from Page 4 Rehearsal Mark "E"

Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021

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Harmony, Voicing and Orchestration

The harmony for Visiting Eucalyptus does not follow the traditional system of triadic chords. Rather the harmonies are loosely based on using characteristic intervals, especially semi-tones, tones and fourths. These intervals where chosen intuitively. Basically when Barbeler went walking in the bush visiting eucalyptus trees he wrote down the melodies that came to him along the way. The harmonies then are taken from the intervals that feature in these melodies.

There is also a kind of "synaesthetic" connection between the visual work and sound. One should remember that it is intervals (not the specific notes) that give a work it's character. And so we can see in this work, that when an open forest is being depicted, larger, intervals are favoured. When a darker, more dense forest needs to be characterised small intervals and "closer" voicings between instruments.

Barbeler's main strategy for orchestration is extract maximum contrast from the instruments. For this reason we see instruments being used in multiple registers and often highly contrasting sounds and techniques are heard right next to each other.

Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021


In 2021 Barbeler created a new short version of Visiting Eucalyptus for a quartet of flute, clarinet, cello and vibraphone, for Ensemble Offspring


2018 version for 8 instruments

Visiting Eucalyptus

Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021



Landscape composing processes you can try yourself.

DIY 1 - Composing Walk

Visit a natural landscape and go for a walk. Take photos as you go. Take photos of things that really appeal to your eye. Review the photos afterwards. Which ones have the best contrast, suggest strong emotion or atmosphere. Choose one that you might base a composition on.

DIY 2 - Visual Harmony

Take photos in a natural landscape. Review these at home. Take note of the atmosphere of the photos. Go to a piano and find intervals that suit that atmosphere. Large intervals will suit more open landscape and smaller intervals will suit more dense landscapes. Register is important also. Higher notes have a lighter feel, whereas lower notes have a darker feeling. Write a series of 4 note chords which capture this atmosphere in different ways.

DIY 3 - Texture Melody

Use the photo below to write a solo work for any instrument of your choice. Work intuitively to try to capture the features: the colour, texture and shading that you see.

DIY 4 - Instrumental Word Melody

Set these words as music for instruments. Think about the atmosphere of an Australian forest. Create 5 or 6 of them as a starting point for a piece. Use graphic sketching THEN notate.


           "A Forest is Language. Accumulated years."

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Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021

Damian Barbeler

Damian Barbeler

Damian Barbeler is an award-winning composer and multimedia artist. He is recognised for his visually inspired style, especially his lush, emotional creations inspired by textures and patterns in nature. He regularly collaborates with colleagues from diverse fields including film, architecture, software design, media arts, dance and more. He frequently makes multi-art works incorporating film, theatrical and sculptural elements with music.

His work often emphasises tactile experiences of physical places and relationships. His new web-series of “Composing Walks” are a good example, where he is embarking on walks with guests from diverse backgrounds as inspiration for music.

In 2020 Barbeler co-curated the independent online music festival “HiberNATION Festival of the Lo-fi” which presented over 100 live stream performances over 3 months and was nominated for the 2021 Classical:NEXT awards.. He has twice received the ‘Recommended Work’ award at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers and was a finalist in the international Toru Takemitsu Composition Prize 2008. He was awarded the Ian Potter Emerging Composer Fellowship to compose seven works during 2006-2007, including commissions for recorder player Genevieve Lacey, and Southern Cross Soloists. In 2010 he received a PhD from the Sydney Conservatorium. In 2015 he was a finalist for “Best Instrumental Work” for the APRA/AMC Art Music Awards.

Barbeler lectures in composition, performance practice and digital music at University of Sydney, Sydney Conservatorium and University of NSW.

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Visiting Eucalyptus - Education Kit

Damian Barbeler © 2021