This piece is affectionately known as ‘Bugs’ or ‘the Bug piece’ to me, and that is what it is about: the wonderful creepy crawlies native to New Zealand. Motivation for writing this piece came from two sources. As part of my residency with the Auckland Philharmonia in 2004, I was required to write a piece for a concert specifically at children and families. Naturally, it needed simple structures, lots of energy and a bit of fun.
The second motivation with regard to a specific programme was a love for all native New Zealand fauna, and not just beautiful birds. So much music has been written with bird song or in celebration of New Zealand’s landscape. But nothing to my knowledge had been written about the humble creatures which often inspire revulsion rather than awe. Despite their not so cuddly appearance, native insects and invertebrates are just as fascinating and unique to these islands of ours as any other endemic wildlife.
The first movement is Giant Weta. Often the most notorious for exciting disgust, these magnificent insects are quite amazing, but all to often fall prey to introduced mammals.
The second movement is titled Giant Snails. Native giant snails are enormous, and often live in kauri trees, or feed on giant earthworms on the forest floor.
The Nelson Cave Spider is a extremely unique creature. Like so many other creatures and plant life of New Zealand, it is a relic of ancient times and preserved by New Zealand’s isolation.
Finally, perhaps the most unusual of all is the Peripatus, sometimes known as the velvet worm, a blue centipede-like creature that crawls through undergrowth in search of prey.
cryosphere is a world of ice; a world of neutral tones of white and black where little life survives in the extreme cold and, paradoxically, extreme dryness. This work attempts to recreate the feeling and emotions of Antarctica, starting with a massive eruption of sound in the opening two bars, the energy of which subsides slowly into a peaceful world of subtle, pale colour. In Antarctica one feels as if one is experiencing the aftermath of huge disruption, of massive forces, which have come together in awesome strength but have now settled and become (temporarily) covered in a soothing blanket of white. Of course, there is nothing soothing about this blanket – it comprises layer upon layer of ice, continually in a state of flux as the massive ice sheets move under the enormous strain. Antarctica is peaceful and energetic, beautiful and brutal, empty and yet eerily full. This work attempts to draw some of these ideas together and to capture a part of the essence that is the earth’s last true great wilderness. I am indebted to Antarctica New Zealand for the opportunity to travel to Antarctica and gain the inspiration essential for the creation of my work.
The state of humankind and the ecology of our planet are inseparably mirrored by each other. Paradoxically, we destroy natural homes to construct our own. What else are we to do? Time and the eco-cycle continue their relentless advance.
Auckland City is a harbour city and often referred to as the ‘City of Sails’. This short fanfare composed in 2002 is a salute to the sailing vessels that sail and race with pride on Auckland’s sparkling Waitemata Harbour.
As I listened to media reports on the ownership of Young Nick’s Head, I began to wonder about the life of the real ‘Young Nick’, who first sighted this land from the deck of the ship Endeavour. What was life like on board the ship for the young boy, and how did it feel to sight the land? Various images came to mind, including a silhouette of land in the early morning light, or a murky shape barely visible through grey storm spray, or a dark smudge on a bright blue horizon. This piece was written with these images in mind.
For Young Nick was premiered by Wellington Youth Orchestra in 2003.
A scene from childhood, remembered as a half peaceful, half eerie dream sequence. Deep in the bush where there were no cicadas singing, the moist smell of soil, a small stream, dark ferns. Occasional streaks of sunlight struck the water. The middle of the ponga fern looked as if it would be a perfect bed to curl up in. I half believed that there were bush-dwelling creatures that did live and sleep there, watching me from the shadows.
The mamaku is the black tree ferns and is the tallest tree fern of New Zealand. Like other ferns, its fronds open out, forming the koru. Off one shape, more of the same shapes unravel, and then off these in turn, tiny parts of the frond unravel, and so on. From the moment of ‘birth’, the gradual cycle continues until the magnificent tree fern is towers, quite different from its original form and the koru is still present. In this piece I’ve explored slow metamorphosis, with the aim to grow sounds out of each other with contrasting results. Diatonic chords out of chromatic clusters, beauty out of chaos. All of this begins from a single note, f, at the start which is born out of string harmonics and imperceptible pitches, and concludes with hint that the cycle an ongoing one.
2(2nd doubled piccolo)232; 4231; timp (4-including piccolo timp), 2 perc (bass drum, 4 tom toms, suspended cymbal, large suspended cymbal, crash cymbals, tam tam, xylophone, marimba,glockenspiel, log drum,hammer(hitting a metallic object), poi (suspended between two strings) hp, pf,electronic keyboard,strs
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed on the world . . .”
from The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats
When asked to compose a work on the meaning and symbolism of the new millennium, I decided to use William Butler Yeats’ famous poem The Second Coming as a starting point. Written in 1921, when the old order in Europe was breaking down, it suggests a revolution or rotation in history (the gyre) will bring about a ‘second coming’ of an important historical figure, and the dawn of a new millennium. Yeats’ vision of the new world order to come is not, however, optimistic. He sees the coming of a ‘rough beast’ with a ‘lion body and the head of a man’, a cold and heartless creature that might be equated with certain infamous and autocratic leaders in the 20th century.
The ‘gyre’ or revolution is represented in the symphony by a rolling, sliding timpani sound, accompanied by bass drum and tam tam at the start of the work. This idea becomes an important motif and appears at the very start. Following the ‘gyre’, we hear a ‘life and death’ theme that begins like a cradle song (the birth of Christ), rises, and then twists downwards in a chromatic line. This theme provides most of the material for what follows. The slow introduction climaxes with hammer blows, a reference to the death of Christ. From this a trumpet call emerges, becoming a significant motif later in the movement. In the allegro that follows, the ‘life and death’ theme is transformed into a fast and restless melody, beginning as pizzicato on the strings. Complimenting this is a macabre and folky theme on muted trumpet and clarinets, evoking a sort of frenzied, gyrating dance. The music quietens and a lyrical theme appears on flute, accompanied by timpani and harp and developed by the strings. As the music climaxes again, the trumpet call reappears, shared around other brass instruments. The significance of this trumpet call can be seen with reference to another poem, this time by New Zealander Peggy Dunstan:
Stratagem of Trumpets
“Then the trumpets sounded
Not in a flare of pomp and pageantry
But with a golden lilting laughter
That seemed to open up the sky
So that the music dropped like rain
Upon the upturned faces
And the enchanted ears were closed
To everything except those throbbing notes. . . "
The trumpets distract the listeners, and make them unaware of the advancing enemy. Dunstan’s poem goes on to describe a massacre of Serbs in 1389 at the time of the battle of Kosovo between Serbs and Turks. At the time of composing my symphony Kosovo was once again in the grip of war and atrocity, only this time the Serbs were the aggressors and Albanians were the victims.
It seems to me that Kosovo sums up a situation common in our past millennium: an endless cycle of struggle for land and power, costing many innocent lives. In the music, the log drum heralds a sort of ‘musical battle-field’ in which the ‘life and death’ theme becomes an aggressive, jagged idea, used fugally in an increasingly dissonant texture. Following the ‘battle’, solo strings, piccolo and harp provide a brief lament for the dead and the music returns to the music of the Introduction. This time it is mixed fragments of the flute theme, and the movement ends quietly with the ‘gyre’ motif.
If the first movement represents the past, then the second movement is a comment on the present. The title Mi-1st refers to the heavy emphasis on the note E (or Mi in the sol-fa system) as a central pitch, but can also be interpreted as ‘me-first’. Essentially this music is about the natural human tendency to be self-centred, which I believe has become much more prevalent in our own society. It is perhaps one aspect of Yeats’ ‘rough beast’ that hinders our progress. There are three main ideas in this presto movement. The first is a savage chromatic theme that encircles the note E, played initially on strings. It is immediately followed by a vigorous, syncopated theme on strings and winds. As a contrast, the harp accompanies a quieter, smoother theme on the violins, which also includes the twisting, chromatic motif from the first movement. In the middle, the music becomes increasingly chaotic until a climax on C is reached, with hope for resolution to the discords. However, the music slips into the key of B, and the strings play a restless, anxious version of the contrast theme. The frenetic energy of the first part gradually dissipats, and the movement collapses into a web of solo violins. The ‘gyre’ motif has the final say.
There are a number of themes in the third movement, but all evolve in some way or other from the constantly twisting, turning melodic line that appears at the start. Used in close canon, this melody represents the intertwining DNA molecule, and hence the title of the movement, Double Helix. Discovered recently in our history, genetics are sure to have a highly significant role in the future. This music looks forward with the hope that genetics will be used in a positive way. It also acknowledges that we carry with us the characteristics of previous generations (covering a whole millennium and more!), and that the future will be significantly shaped by these characteristics. At the same time we need to learn from the hard lessons of previous generations in order to make progress.
Consequently, the symphony has an optimistic and celebratory end, which is tempered by a sense of warning. In the coda, the threads of Double Helix motifs are combined with a return of the main theme from the first movement, played on full brass.