‘Almost an Island’, a phrase which refers to the Otago peninsula, is the title I’ve given to a short set of haiku written by peninsula poets, which I set for voice and piano as a wedding present for my then neighbours, Breffni and Dave.
Rain blows on windows plastered with new leaves it’s spring again (Eleanor Koch) Golden pendant blossoms bright against blue spring sky beckon tuis (Eleanor Koch) Gleaming white across Arapatiki three spoonbills fly towards us (Gillian Whitehead) Aramoana pathway to the wide ocean memories remain (Kay Sinclair) Fiery rata circled by glitter almost an island (Kay Sinclair) Track winds past pine trees tangled vines scratching bare skin sharp smell of gorse flowers (Fran Bolgar) Low pressure warning on the macrocarpa thirty herons swaying (Gillian Whitehead) Kereru wheeling soaring and plummeting bounce now on tree-top (Joyce Whitehead)
Angst: an acute but non-specific sense of anxiety or remorse (Collins Concise Dictionary). This is not intended to be an easy-listening, carefree piece. I wanted to portray a deep-seated sense of angst, creating a feeling of uneasiness in the listener. The flute and cello bear a similar angst, at times dealing with this independently, yet always returning to share in their anxiety. Quarter-tone inflections disconcert the harmonies, with tremolo, flutter-tongue and a recurring minor ninth adding to the tension. The material gradually unravels, only to fold in on itself again, remaining unresolved.
Bele Doette (‘Lovely Doette’) is based on an anonymous 12th century Chanson de Toile. The vocal line follows the original song-line closely for two of the eight stanzas and refrains.
Doette is at a window, reading, when she receives the news that her friend Doon has been killed in a jousting contest. The refrain reads “See now what grief I have”, and at the end she vows to become a nun in the church of St Paul. The original transcription of the song is published in the Anthology of Medieval Music, edited by Richard Hoppin (1978). Pitches are notated in the transcription but no rhythm. Therefore, rhythm is freely interpreted while the original melismas and word setting are maintained. The refrain is expanded beyond the original. The oboe has a dual role. First, it freely develops motifs based on the song-lines by a process using magic squares. These motifs are used in the introduction and interludes between stanzas and refrains. Second, the oboe has a dialogue with the soprano that involves imitation and decoration, particularly in the refrains.
Bele Doette was commissioned by Pepe Becker, and written for her and oboist, Robert Orr. It has been composed as part of Ritchie’s research at the University of Otago.
Chiaroscuro is a method used in the visual arts applying light and shadow to create the illusion of three-dimensional objects. If light comes from only one source, and therefore from one direction, then all light and shadow will be determined by the rules that this implies. ‘Chiaroscuro’ was commissioned by Stephen De Pledge in 2005.
This is a love note to my parents which fuses musical ideas from Balinese gamelan, Cook Island drumming and alternative popular music. It is song-like and expresses the way that, since burth, we are continually letting go of our parents.
Trompe l’oreille. The aural equivalent to an optical illusion. Such images are often a blur, gradually coming into focus as the eye adjusts and changing form as one’s perspective changes. This piece begins on the edge of aural perception, slowly unfolding and evolving.
Delicate Fragility was read by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra with conductor Marc Taddei in their Graduate Composers’ Workshop, 3 October 2005.
The first in a series of works with the ‘diffracted terrains’ title, this work exploits the spectrum of relative stability and instability that is inherent in this instrumental combination as a metaphor for proximity and distance, singularity and multiplicity. The series as a whole investigates symmetry and asymmetry in multiple dimensions including space, texture and structure. This preoccupation comes from a variety of sources: in particular [�and�1], which stimulated the notion of ‘diffracted’ space, and the fantastical characterisation of mirrors in Jorge Luis Borges’s story ‘Fauna of Dreams’. Ideas about distorted symmetries are further informed by experiences of feedback and distortion created electronically. diffracted terrains:duo i was composed for Andrew Sparling and Carrado Canonici who gave it its first performance at the Mayfest festival at the University of Hertsfordshire in May 2005.
This work began as an exercise in the use of L-Systems as a compositional tool, inspired by Hanspeter Kyburz’s Cells and Michael Norris’ research into methods of using these patterns. L- Systems are algorithms designed by the biologist Aristid Lindenmayer to imitate natural processes of growth and decay and can be musically interpreted in various ways. Three different L-Systems were used for this work; the example on the following page is that of the first movement. Here, and similarly in the third movement, each letter of the pattern was substituted with a different musical gesture. Using gesture rather than specific motifs allowed more compositional freedom to develop ideas while working within the set pattern. In order to create a more lyrical second movement, I experimented with substituting pitch class sets to the pattern, rather than gestures. As a result, the musical growth that is evident in the other movements is not so clear. No mathematical system can be adhered to precisely without a loss of musicality, hence the L-systems I used quickly became macrostructural. These patterns also reach a point where there is too much self-similarity and they must be abandoned in favour of musical intuition. The title refers to the Fibonacci series. Many L-systems (although not the following example!) bear a relationship to this in the length of each new generation.