A music-theatre work especially written for Wellington pianist Dan Poynton. Although referring indirectly to religious symbolism, the composition focuses on the physical and mental stress that pianists submit themselves to.
It is impossible not to feel inspired when playing some of Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues, Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Debussy’s two books of preludes, or Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues. As a composer I wanted to make a small mark of respect to these greats with some dedications. I have also taken a cue from Bach and Shostakovich and included contrapuntal forms within these preludes. While not wanting to restrict myself to the form of a fugue, there are several preludes which are close in spirit to fugues: Nos.17 and 19 for instance, are what I would call my ‘prelugues’. There is also a passacaglia (No.16) which owes a debt to Shostakovich. I have conceived these pieces as a unified whole. Within them I have attempted to cover a whole variety of characters and moods, from the improvisational and experimental to the lyrical and gentle, from the wild and gestural to the calm and peaceful, from the quirky and ‘black’ to the light and sunny, from the depressive to the resolved. The extensive technical planning and preparation behind these pieces has been fun for me as the composer, but in the end it is the sound and musical expression that matters. I would like to think this voyage of discovery has led to something new and interesting to listen to.
Arapatiki was commissioned by Stephen De Pledge as one of a series of Landscape preludes, and received its first performance in the Wigmore Hall, London, in January, 2004. Arapatiki translates (from the Maori language) as ‘the way of the flounder’, and is the ancient name of the sand flats in front of my house at Harwood, near Dunedin. The piece has something to do with the advance and retreat of the tide across the flats, where many species of sea and water birds spend much of the day – an ever-varying water-scape. The opening idea is based on the song of the korimako or bellbird.
“And if I go, while you’re still here Know that I live on, vibrating to a different measure, behind a thin veil you cannot see through. You will not see me, so you must have faith. I wait for the time when we can soar together again, both aware of each other. Until then, live your life to its fullest. And when you need me, Just whisper my name in your heart, I will be there.”