• Britta Byström
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (2010)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 3333/4331/4perc/str
  • 19 min

Programme Note

What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream” – These words opens Peter Wier’s film on Joan Lindsay’s novel Picnic at Hanging Rock from 1967. The story takes place on Valentines Day 1900. A group of school girls go on a picnic at Hanging Rock in Australia and get caught up in a volcanic eruption. Three of the girls disappear without a trace – as if they where swallowed up by the mountain.

Inspired by Peter Weir’s poetic and many layered film I have composed a tone poem – with the emphasis on poem – or poetry – as opposed to programme music. Disappearance is an important motif. The piece is a series of disappearances and transformations – one after another. At the end you can hear how the sound of the orchestra disappears in a swarm of clanging triangles – a way of picturing the girls disappearing into the mountain.

I have tried to catch several other of the characteristics of the film: The school girls in their white dresses, the dangerous yet alluring mountain where the watches mysteriously stop at 12, the spell that makes the girls climb higher and higher, and – at the end – the unanswered hesitant question: what really did happen?

Britta Byström


Picnic at Hanging Rock