The music of ‘A West Irish Ballad’ follows the course of an anonymous Irish poem, and is influenced by Irish traditional music. Much of the musical imagery comes from the poetry, from the snipe and the ‘lonely bird in the woods’, to the developing ostinato reminiscent of church bells, and to the broader feeling of the landscape as I imagine it, and the deep emotion of Irish laments and love songs. ‘A West Irish Ballad’ was written for the Sydney Chamber Choir.
‘Roll Jordan Roll’ (movement one) is a series of genre variations on the African-American spiritual of the same name. The melody was transcribed from a 78rpm recording of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and in turn, this appeared on the 1962 Folkways LP entitled An Introduction to Gospel Song. In my version, the listener will hear my own harmonization followed sequentially by pastiches of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lennie Tristano, Anton Webern, and Thelonious Monk, in turn.
‘Dangdut’ (movement two) is a direct transcription of an Indonesian street musician called Mas Sujud. He and the tune appeared on a 1982 Kiwi-Pacific Records Ltd./Hibiscus Records LP called Music for Sale (Indonesian street music recorded by Jack Body). In the original, the singer accompanies himself on a small drum, and in my version, the piano part was generated solely by the notes in the melody and rhythms played by the drum. The sax part plays the melody.
This piece was recorded in 1991 by Taimur Sullivan (sax) and Allissa Eells (piano) with funding from the American (then Minnesota) Composers Forum.
Caprice was originally composed, as a commissioned work, for two duo pianos. It was premiered under the title ‘Duo Caprice’, in Auckland, July 1989. A few years later it was arranged for accordion orchestra with the title ‘Caprice’ and premiered in England by Jenny’s Accordionaires from Colchester.
‘Four Short Pieces’ were commissioned for Allen’s Australian Bicentennial Anthology of piano music, published in 1988 and now long out of print. The details of the first performance are unknown; the first performance I heard was by Anna Klymashivka in Sydney in 1996. The pieces perhaps suggest nature images, but the only one that was a reaction to something specific is the last, which was suggested by watching and hearing a beck in spate (or flooded stream) on the west coast of Scotland
Interlude for Piano is written in a pointillistic melodic style first used in the previous work for piano, Diffractions for Piano & Chamber Orchestra. Interludes is a brief, freely evolving abstract piece with a somewhat improvisational feel to it, and is concerned with splashes of harmonic colour across the keyboard in the context of sinuous angular melodic fragments, hence the suggestion of the pointillistic aspect to the work.
It was written for the IRMT conference in Nelson in January 1988 and the piece was given its first performance by Mark Secker at the Nelson School of Music.