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Melissa Dunphy
Chants (2023)

Chants (2023)
I. A Chant
II. Swoon-Number
III. Crystalline Sparkles
IV. Downstream She Floats

This commission is generously sponsored by Mr. Wesley Green of Tucson, AZ.

Chants was premiered October 26, 2023 at the College Music Society National Conference in Miami, FL.

Commissioned by Whistling Hens in 2022, this new work for soprano and clarinet is based on the life of New Zealand born artist and occultist Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979). The texts, previously unreleased, were generously provided by Norton's estate.


Rosaleen Norton scandalized Australia in the 1950s. Her erotic/esoteric paintings led to prosecution and the destruction of some of her work, and newspapers published sensationalist accounts of her supposed involvement in 'black magic and sex orgies'.

Norton bravely lived a 'counter-cultural' life decades before there was such thing as mass counter culture. Pursuing a life of queer sex, magic and drugs in the face of overwhelming repressive conformity was dangerous. This was an age in which social ruin awaited 'deviants', as for instance the composer and conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Eugène Goossens (1893-1962) found when his bisexual relationship with Norton and the poet Gavin Greenlees was exposed. 50 years later, hundreds of thousands of people were parading every year down the same streets in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras- but maybe in their own ways it was people like Norton's circle who helped open a space for this.


In 2020, a documentary called The Witch of Kings Cross” was released discussing Norton’s life, legacy, and scandals.

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