Eucalyptus Book IMage 2.jpg

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

Santa Sabina_edited.png
EO_Logo Inline_Greyscale.png

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

Screen Shot 2021-06-29 at 9.50_edited
press to zoom
Screen Shot 2021-06-29 at 9.54_edited
press to zoom
Screen Shot 2021-06-29 at 9.57.12 pm
press to zoom
Screen Shot 2021-06-29 at 10.01.10 pm
press to zoom
Screen Shot 2021-06-29 at 10.16.26 pm
press to zoom
Screen Shot 2021-06-29 at 10.19.27 pm
press to zoom

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.

Screen Shot 2021-07-03 at 1.56.29 pm.png

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