Starting in a field close to Melbourne’s Western Ring Road, a llama lives a placid and slightly bored existence. Absent-mindedly picking at a chain-link fence, a gap appears: the animal can fit itself through and escape its confines. After a few cautious steps, it lurches forward and runs in sudden jerks. Making its way down a grassy hillside, it reaches the freeway crash barrier. Occupants of moving vehicles begin to notice the animal: “there’s a llama!” After a few tries, it successfully vaults the crash barrier and makes it onto the road itself. Vehicles whizz by and drivers honk their horns, but the llama is enjoying its freedom too much to be affected by them. Reports begin to reach news services: we hear a radio news theme and the growing noise of the Twitterverse.
The din of chatter around Melbourne becomes overwhelming and little more than indistinguishable noise, so the llama retreats into its head and to its elated thoughts: “I’m free! I’m my own animal! This is my dream, I’m no longer bound by a chain-link fence! It’s a whole new world! There’s a smile on my face for the whole…”
SQUEAL!! Its reverie is interrupted by an SUV with an absent-minded yet aggressive driver: the vehicle has to brake extremely suddenly to avoid hitting the llama, and misses it only by inches. Police have arrived on the scene and have begun to divert traffic. The llama becomes outnumbered to a greater and greater degree: there’s one last chance for escape, one tricky path to freedom, one last high-stakes roll of the “OOH TASTYTASTYLLAMATREAT ON THEGRASSYBANK!! I LIKETASTY LL… oh damn.”
Thirty minutes later, in the same field close to the Western Ring Road, the llama is once again bored. Picking at the chain-link fence, there’s no chance of escape. The fence has been repaired, the gap closed, the llama’s life restored to its former boredom.
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.
These five compositions were created to explore the unique harmonic essence of this most magnificent of instruments. The compositions were designed specifically for Timothy Hurd QSM, the carillon master of the Wellington War Memorial instrument in New Zealand, and for Gordon Slater, the Dominion Carilloneur for the Peace Tower situated in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Canada.
The title itself is a play on the words “fatality” and “tonality”, the two words and concepts colliding to form “[f]at[on]ality”. Similarly, the music presents two contrasting musical languages that intersect and compete violently for dominance. The first of these is a tonal language, represented by various types of (major/minor etc.) chords derived from four constituent triads of a twelve-tone row. The first phrase presents this language in conflict with itself, collapsing two triads into a hexachord at the punctuation points of the phrase. These chords then begin to extricate and extrapolate themselves, – beginning in the right hand at the start of the second phrase – under which the twelve-tone row (presented in the accelerating and decelerating lines of the first phrase) is fragmented and rhythmically manipulated. This twelve-tone row represents the second musical language, that is, a quasi-serial atonal language that is subjected to transformation by inversion, retrograde, multiplication etc. While on one level the music is concerned with the intersection and interdependence of these languages, it is also concerned with the dramatic consequences of that collision. The dynamic and rhythmic frameworks are somewhat extreme, providing a constantly surging, climactic structure that, in the end, resolves ambivalently. The inspiration for the piece came from a poetic doodle, reprinted below:
wanting to dis / dys
place / figure / function
this fatal tonality
this [f]at[on]al entity
cacophonic / catatonic
coughed up and codified
maybe some kind of
superficial facticity / deep fiction
palimpsestic / incestuous
A Jazz Burlesque was originally was compose as a piano solo.
It was later arranged for accordionist, Kevin Friedrich, one of New Zealand’s leading accordionists and a member of the International Trio from Kansas in America. The International Trio premiered A Jazz Burlesque in Auckland, June 1991, at the New Zealand Accordion Championships. It was later arranged for accordion orchestra and a string orchestra arrangement followed for the all female string ensemble ‘String Silhouette’. They premiered it in Auckland, June 1993.