Role-play and invariance— Two aspects of ritual in Roger Smalley's Ceremony II

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Sound scripts : volume 5


Australian Music Centre


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Christiansen, B., & Vickery, L. (2016). Role-play and invariance— Two aspects of ritual in Roger Smalley's Ceremony II. In Hope, C., Trainer, A., & Studham, S. (Eds.) Sound scripts : volume 5 (pp. 85-96). Ultimo, Australia: Australian Music Centre. Available here


In Roger Smalley’s Ceremony I the performers move about the stage in an austere choreography that is both integral to the musical form and rich with ritualistic connotations, the ensemble of percussion instruments further suggesting the primitivism of an ancient rite. In stark contrast, Ceremony II and III show almost no signs of this overt physicality or preference for non-pitched instruments, and represent a performance style and instrumental bias more typical of Western concert music. Without the element of theatricality, the relationship of these pieces to their titles must be judged primarily in terms of the musical content. Devices such as repetition, symmetry, instrumental theatre, and non-developmental structures are conspicuous throughout the works, and can be seen to represent the ritualistic characteristics of role-play and invariance. This paper will examine the ritualism that informs the Ceremony series, and, through an analysis of Ceremony II, consider the relationship between these two specific aspects of ritual and the compositional devices through which they are evoked.

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