A Sympathy With Sounds was composed in 1988 to celebrate the centenary of a certain choral society, to the specifications of the conductor. When the work was completed, both the composition of the choir and the conductor had changed and it was never performed by that society. The work is suitable for an SATB choir of moderate strength and ability, provided there are sufficient singers to cope with the ocasional divisions.
“A Sympathy with Sounds… and some lovely sounds there are too!” – Brian Kay
The music of ‘A West Irish Ballad’ follows the course of an anonymous Irish poem, and is influenced by Irish traditional music. Much of the musical imagery comes from the poetry, from the snipe and the ‘lonely bird in the woods’, to the developing ostinato reminiscent of church bells, and to the broader feeling of the landscape as I imagine it, and the deep emotion of Irish laments and love songs. ‘A West Irish Ballad’ was written for the Sydney Chamber Choir.
‘Beginnings’ was commissioned by Auckland Philharmonia. It was inspired by the birth of Ritchie’s son Tristan. It depicts the slowly mounting tension of the labour, through to the birth itself. There is a gradual growth in the music from small, delicate gestures into wild and pulsating ones towards the end. The child is represented by a ‘little Tristan waltz’ which eventually gets caught up in the musical frenzy. The waltz sequence imposes order on the music, which tends to be fragmentary and changeable. There are some echoes of Bartok and Debussy in this early work, and it presents a good challenge for a professional orchestra.
This work uses, as its sound source, an array of human voices, all of which are deceased political and/or historical figures. It is not intended to be entirely comprehensible at a first hearing as I wished to convey, in part, our cultural over-stimulation in comparison to say, 100 years ago. Musically, it is shaped as a canon, and (taking my inspiration from a comment by Dylan Thomas to the effect that what originally attracted him to language was not its meaning but its sound) I have assembled increasingly fragmented parts of speeches into a confusing labyrinth which will hopefully stimulate harsh emotion. How’s that for a run-on sentence!
Between the Lines was realized at the Electronic Music Studios at the University of Toronto, and re-mastered in Studio A of the Experimental Music Studios, University of Illinois, Urbana, United States.