The man behind the sounds of Zodiac: Ross Edwards

By Kalyn Oden, PR Intern

Aries? Taurus? Leo? Whatever your Zodiac sign might be, Houston Ballet has the perfect performance for you! Houston Ballet is proud to announce Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s world premiere of Zodiac. The company will perform Zodiac in a mixed repertory featuring works from some of the most talented choreographers called “Morris, Welch & Kylián” from May 28 – June 7, 2015.


Have you ever wondered who composes the music for new pieces? Wonder no more; I am honored to introduce Ross Edwards, one of Australia’s best-known composers. His compositions range from symphonies, children’s music, film scores, opera, music for dance and several other genres of composition.

Ross Edwards; Photo by Bridget Elliot
Ross Edwards; Photo by Bridget Elliot

How did you get your start as a composer?

It happened more than 50 years ago when I was still a student. My teacher arranged a performance of one of my early works, the score of which has fortunately been lost, but it created considerable interest at the time and gave me a start. In 1980, I gave up a tenured teaching position at the Sydney Conservatorium to compose full-time and I’ve never looked back. (See my website for a biography and list of works).

How did the score for Zodiac come about?

I had a call from choreographer Stanton Welch, a fellow Australian who had already created a ballet based on the score of my violin concerto, Maninyas. I saw a performance of it many years ago by the Singapore Dance Company and liked it a lot. Happily, it’s still very much in the repertoire. Stanton now proposed that I write him a specially commissioned score for a ballet based on the zodiac. It seemed an interesting idea, and after some thought I got back to him and agreed.

What research did you do before composing the Zodiac score?

I did a lot of research, narrowing down the information I found on each of the twelve signs to what I considered their essential characteristics to be interpreted musically. For example, Aries, the Ram, was “adventurous, competitive, aggressive, headstrong”; Taurus, the Bull, “warm-hearted, loving, and sensual”. And so on.

Corps de Ballet Madeline Skelly as Taurus; Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Madeline Skelly as Taurus in Stanton Welch’s Zodiac; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

How are you trying to differentiate between each of the signs? Does each sign have its own theme or something to make it stand out?

Each sign has its own distinctive musical characteristics and the orchestral scoring for each reflects its individuality. For example, Aries is a tempestuous, driving dance scored for the full orchestral resources with some electronic effects mixed in, while Taurus is a limpid love duet, lightly scored, with harp accompaniment. Since the music for each of the signs is necessarily distinctive and there can be no thematic link, Stanton asked me to create a context in the form of eerie, psychic “bookends” – a Prelude, recurring at the end as a Postlude – to suggest that the intervening activity isn’t bound by natural laws.

How long did it take you to compose the score?

(Sigh)… as usual, much longer than anticipated. A forty minute orchestral score and piano reduction for rehearsal is no small task, especially as I compose with a pencil and ruled paper, later to be typeset. I had to work on other pieces at the same time in order to ensure all my deadlines were met – a constant juggling act.

What do you enjoy about working on commissioned works?

They all have a different kind of challenge. I’ve just completed a piece for two pianos and didgeridoo. Before that, a double concerto for alto saxophone and percussion, and now I’m doing a movement for a ballet to which several other composers are contributing. All quite different and all totally absorbing.

Ladies and gentlemen, your horoscope reading for today is: You do not want to miss this world premiere performance!

Check out a video of Zodiac


From May 28 – June 7, 2015 Houston Ballet offers up a mixed repertory program titled Morris, Welch & Kylián featuring three of today’s most dynamic and musical choreographers. A world premiere of The Letter V by acclaimed American choreographer Mark Morris, the world premiere of Stanton Welch’s Zodiac and the revival of Jiří Kylián’s iconic Svadebka make this program a must-see for all ballet lovers. Zodiac is made possible through the generosity of Leticia Loya. Houston Ballet will give six performances of Morris, Welch & Kylián at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston.


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