Outback Dreaming: Peter Sculthorpe and the guitar

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Education and Arts


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)




Paget, J. R. (2011). Outback Dreaming: Peter Sculthorpe and the guitar. Soundboard: The journal of the guitar foundation of America, 37(2), 11-25.


Among the most compelling guitar works of the late twentieth century are, arguably, those of Peter Scultharpe (b. 1929). Perhaps Australia's most iconic composer: Sculthorpe has produced a Significant body of works for the classical guitar that emit a strong sense of Australian identity. While Sculthorpe's works have a certain instant appeal, [ believe they also have:\ depth of musical content worthy of deeper investigation. In this article, I consider the question of Sculthorpe as an Australian cultural icon, discuss the influences and concerns underlying his purported Australian style, and investigate his gradual mastery of writing idiomatically for the guitar. I also provide a complete synopsis of Sculthorpe's compositional output for the guitar, making more detailed analytical observations on his most substantial and significant works: NourLmgie, From Kakadu, Into theDreamning, and Tropic. This discussion centers on the diverse blend of stylistic influences in his music, and in particular his obsessive recycling of indigenous melodies. It is my hope that the insights offered here will enable guitarists to more fully understood the depth, mystery. and passion of Sculthorpe's unique compositional idiom, and that many will be inspired to explore or revisit these beautiful pieces.

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