The work began as a series of four miniatures; however, as is often the case, matters have progressed somewhat beyond mere frippery.
All the movements seem to me to have a questioning quality to them which seemed to coincide with some philosophical angst of my own, the details of which are irrelevant. This is in no way programme music and I would merely like for the listener to perhaps reflect on questions in their own lives, whatever they may be.
I have utilised wordless soprano alongside some Latin verse. In particular the very opening of the Mass for the Dead and the first half of the In Paradisum from the same Mass which is sung in the original Gregorian Chant. My home town of Christchurch has suffered terribly during the past 12 months and I wanted somehow to reflect this in some small way.
In 1987 the composer visited China and searched out the music of some of China’s so-called minority peoples. Field records made on this visit form the core of the work: the instrumental writing is mean as an enchancing backdrop to direct our listening to the ‘interior’ of the music.
First is heard to long-ge, a three-bladed Jews harp of the Yi nationality (Sichuan province). Next three women of the Miao nationality (Guizhou province) sing a melody of strong character with long notes and leaping intervals further enhanced by the gradual melting into a unison. The words mean “though we die, our songs like mountains, go on forever”. Finally we hear an ensemble of lusheng played by youths of the Ge nationality (Guizhou province) accompanying a dance. This six-piped bamboo mouth organ is common in the south of China and is found in various forms throughout Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and parts of Indonesia.
Le Marteau du Destin is a collection of haiku set for female voice with chamber ensemble. It is in five movements. The texts were taken from Japanese poets and were chosen because of their association with nature.
“Before this autumn wind/ Even the shadows of mountains/ Shudder and tremble”-Issa
“When I went out/ In the spring meadows/ To gather violets, I enjoyed myself/ So much that I stayed all night” – Akahito
“The long, long river/ A single line/ On the snowy plain” – Boncho
“Gathering wild strawberries/ My humble treat” – Basho
“O autumn winds,/ Tell me where I’m bound, to which/particular hell” – Issa
Early in 2001, I was elated at the arrival of my first child, George. Observing him grow and develop in the last 6 months has rekindled the vague memories and nebulous feelings from my own early life, and has prompted me to wonder what memories, feelings, sights and smells etc he will remember in years to come. I am sure that these musings are not new and have occurred millions of times for many millennia, but I have still found them rather special. Perhaps the slower parts of the piece portray a nostalgic and retrospective perspective, and perhaps the faster gestures depict some animated conversations as heard by a newborn.
Most of the time, More than one attempt comprises three musical layers: (i) a pair of ‘drones’, audible only now and then, playing continuously in the background as a sort of ‘coloured silence’; (ii) a punctuating or supporting layer usually consisting of percussion, bass trombone and bass clarinet; and (iii) a soloist—the piano in the ﬁrst movement, and the horn in the second.
The title of the ﬁrst movement is the ﬁrst and last line of the late Allen Curnow’s poem For Peter Porter at Seventy which I discovered after having started to sketch the work. It seemed appropriate for music which consists largely of regular pulses in the ensemble while the piano spends much of the movement in its own freewheeling, ﬂexible time zone. The intricate pantoum structure of Curnow’s poem is not, however, emulated musically. In contrast to the ﬁxed, equal tempered pitch world of the piano in the ﬁrst movement, the horn soloist in the second is called upon to make extensive use of the 7th, 11th and 13th harmonics of the instrument—so called ‘out of tune’ harmonics—which set it apart from the rest of the ensemble.
More than one attempt was written for, and is dedicated to, the soloists in the first three performances; the pianist Lynda Cochrane and the horn player Helen Burr
The nacelle is the main body of the top portion of a modern wind turbine, an enclosure housing an electrical generator, power control equipment, disc brakes and a gearbox. Rotating on its tower to constantly face the prevailing breeze and responding to wind force by setting thresholds for propeller speed, the nacelle is the brains of the operation. Nacelle continues my exploration of metric modulation and its relation to the movement and behaviour of machines, though with the added element of a soloist, who steers the music’s path through different tempi as well as defining the direction of the music’s texture and language; the soloist is the brains of the operation. Two cadenzas allow for an escape from the rigours of the metric scheme, where a subjective take on the timing of proceedings is permitted.
In 2003 I lived close to Wellington’s wind turbine and indulged in regular walks to the landmark.
Nacelle was performed in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland by 175 East in April and May of 2003 with solo clarinetist Gretchen Dunsmore.