The electronic part for this work was prepared in the computer music studio of Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, using real-time granular synthesis to process samples produced by the viola. A small resource of bowed and plucked sounds has been treated in this way to produce a large-scale mosaic of sounds to background the solo viola part, which explores playing techniques involving small changes, drifts, in pitch. For instance the opening is played with the fingers in closer than normal position to produce rhythmic patterns on very small intervals, a technique which recurs as a sort of technical motto throughout, and later material makes considerable use of much larger slides to produce a very fluid melody in the upper reaches of the instrument.
The first performance was given by violist David Nalden in the
ExtravaCANZa festival at Victoria University of Wellington in November 1994. David Nalden describes ‘Drift’ as ‘a vast soundscape of seemingly infinite varieties of colour, pitch and rhythm which bore as much resemblance to the sequence of sounds in my initial recording as a luxuriant garden to a handful of seeds which had given it its existence.’
In this work, the first movement uses two Basque melodies (one of which is a Basque lullaby whose text contains only Basque nonsense words) for the first group and a “Bulgarianized” version of a Hungarian folk melody for the second in this short sonata form. The second movement is an arrangement of a 14th century melody by Guillaume de Machault, and the last owes something to Scandinavian folk music (the obscure title refers to a favorite Finnish dill-infused salad dressing that I like to make on occasion).
Music for Viola and Piano is dedicated to Rudolf Haken, Rachel Jensen, and my counterpoint teacher, Jack Melby.