Analysis Question two with sample response I: Brett Dean, Between the Spaces in the Sky

Analysis Question two with sample response I: Brett Dean, Between the Spaces in the Sky

Analysis Question Two with sample response I: Between the Spaces in the Sky, Brett Dean

Question: Discuss how expressive devices create tension in the following work.

* Please only analyse the first two minutes

  • A tense and eerie sensation is expressed in Brett Dean’s ‘Between the spaces of the sky’ through the manipulation of timbre, melody, dynamics and instrumentation.

Jenn Gillan: There is no need to restate the question. Just state the character.


  •  The piece begins with the deep and haunting tones of the cello and double bass playing at pianissimo with a bow to create a sustained phrase, creating an unsettling atmosphere to the piece and acts as a drone.

Jenn Gillan: Be careful you don’t mix up character and tone colour words. Haunting is not a tone colour word. Maybe ‘deep and resonant’ instead? In this question the character (or creation of tension) is provided for you. Try to stick to that word so it shows you’re answering the question. 


  • The piercing and high-pitched sustained shrills of the violins playing with the bow are also introduced in the foreground of this piece, establishing a melodic discordant through the distinctive extreme range expressed from the lower ranged instruments (cello, double bass) and the violins. This creates amplifies the tension and uncomfortable setting to the piece.

Jenn Gillan: ‘Shrills?’ Do you mean shrill tone colour? ‘Melodic discordant’ maybe ‘dissonant harmony’ instead? You’re right about the extreme range overall but what is the range of the upper strings versus the lower strings? I think their range is fairly small but they’re just separated in pitch.


  • While the piece gradually becomes louder therefore emphasising the tense and eerie motion of this piece, the violins move in a descending melodic movement through minor intervals and in response the cellos and double bass move in a similar fashion. This creates further discordance in-between the ranges of the string orchestra and adds to the existing tension to this piece.

Jenn Gillan: ‘discordance’? Maybe discord or dissonance. 


  • The strings at both ranges play step-like melodic phrasing, moving through augmented and minor intervals to create an unfamiliar tonality, while the bassline (cellos and double bass) gradually increase in volume to become more prominent in the piece. This further accentuates the tonal dissonance between the violins and bass-line and continues to extrapolate the eerie and tense atmosphere in the piece.


Jenn Gillan: ‘step-like’ try stepwise. ‘unfamiliar tonality’ maybe change to ambiguous tonality. I like your point about changing roles. You’ve described this well. Maybe stating ‘augmented and minor’ intervals is a little too specific. Maybe say dissonant intervals instead. 

Overall: Strong descriptions. Some tweaking of language needed here and there but good examples that link well to the creation of tension. Well done.