Dark Sun

Montague, Stephen

About the work

Dark Sun - August, 1945 in memoriam for the victims and survivors of the nuclear age. On August 6, 1945 a single American B-29 Superfortress bomber, the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. It detonated at 09:15:15, nine hundred meters above the city instantly incinerating 78,150 of the 240,000 inhabitants (including 23 American prisoners of war). Over 70,000 further inhabitants were critically burned and gravely injured in the world’s first nuclear attack. Dark Sun is a threnody for this tragic event and the victims as well as survivors of the nuclear age. The recordings you will hear nested in the orchestral textures are from radio broadcasts of the period and at another point in the work individual members of the orchestra create a collage of music which might have been played somewhere in the world on the 6th August, 1945. The radio to your right is a Japanese propaganda station featuring “The Zero Hour” with Tokyo Rose as she was known to the Allied soldiers. Her mission was to make the Allies homesick with popular music of the day and stories from “back home”. The central radio is the BBC with broadcasts from the war in the Pacific, ending with a RAF observer’s rather languid account of the atomic bomb that fell three days later on Nagasaki. The radio station to your left plays an American children’s programme called “Terry and the Pirates” set against a backdrop of the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s and later “Hop Harrigan- America’s Ace of the Airwaves.” All these, however, are used only as audio textures in the larger sonic fabric- a distant resonance, crackling in and out of focus, from a dark period of the world at war. Dark Sun was commissioned in 1995 by Contemporary Music-making for Amateurs (COMA) with funds provided by the Arts Council of England. It is scored for a large orchestral and vocal ensemble of flexible instrumentation and varying individual performance standards. The work is dedicated to Chris Shurety, the Director of COMA.

First performance: COMA Summer School Orchestra, Aug 1995, Bretton Hall, West Yorkshire

Technical notes

A number of special (and not difficult) instrumental techniques, the use of percussion, wine glasses and original tape material from the war work together to create a stunning and evocative sound-world. The work is designed for amateur orchestras with varying forces, and is flexible as to the number of instrumentalists required per part (although it really needs a large orchestra to achieve its effect). A large percussion section is required; however, these parts can be tackled by musicians who are not primarily percussionists. Voice parts are optional and not difficult, but add to the atmosphere of the piece.


CoMA commission for CoMA Summer School 1995


score & parts

Sorry, Not Available


20m 00s


United Music Publishers




Large Ensemble


fl, pic, ob, cl, saxs, bn, hn, tpt, trb, tuba, 9 perc, strings, optional voices


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