Echoes was written for the Puspawarna Gamelan Group at the University of Otago. I have long enjoyed the sounds of the gamelan, and welcomed the invitation by Dr Shelley Brunt to compose something for Puspawarna. Although I knew some rudimentary things about the instruments, composing this piece gave me the opportunity to learn a great deal more. Being able to play a little in the ensemble was invaluable, as was advice provided by leader Joko Susilo, Shelley, Chris Watson (Mozart Fellow at Otago University) and one of my students, Ali Churcher, who coincidentally was writing a piece for gamelan at the same time.
Echoes is the first piece I have written without using a piano at all to compose. Having been to a gamelan rehearsal I found a tune popping into my head during a walk to the dairy. I developed this tune on the computer (using vibraphone sounds to represent the gamelan), layering it into a canon, or round. Two further tunes appear, based on different home notes, but all the tunes use the same pelog scale. They are decorated and varied, before the opening tune returns like an echo at the end. The idea of echoes is also evoked by the canons, and the ringing sounds of the gamelan itself. Echoes have a spiritual significance, I think; sound waves return to a listener in the same way memories flood the brain when triggered by something special happens. They induce a reflective state.