“The sanskrit equivalent for initiation is abhisheka, meaning ‘sprinkle’, ‘pour’, ‘anointment’. And if there is pouring, there must be a vessel into which the pouring can fall. So at last we might really give up all these complications and just allow some space, just give in. This is the moment when abhisheka – sprinkling and pouring – really takes place, because we are open and are really giving up the whole attempt to do anything, giving up all the busyness and overcrowding. Finally we have been forced to really stop properly, which is quite a rare occurrence for us.”
(Taken from Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, from album Nederlands Blazers Ensemble: Zeibekiko, NBECD014).
The composer writes: ”Drafted immediately after reading a book by the Buddhist guru Chögyam Trungpa, Abhisheka was my first-ever attempt at writing music with space in it. Until this piece, practically everything I had written was ultra-caffeinated, fast, full of notes, and murder on performers. But having been (albeit temporarily) inspired by the great truths and peace in Trungpa’s writing, I found myself navigating slower passages of musical time, as well as exploring the microcosm of inner space between the even intervals of our chromatic tuning system.”
Abhisheka by John Psathas was chosen for the list of string quartets in 2000 for ‘IAMIC Sounds of the Year’. The composer has also prepared versions of Abhisheka for mixed chamber ensemble, this version performed by Manos Achalinotopoulos, Vangelis Karipis and Nederlands Blazers Ensemble at Paradiso, in Amsterdam in 2004, and for string orchestra (2008).
Programme note from the New Zealand String Quartet’s 2012 New Zealand at Kings Place concert.
‘Alegria’ is an education piece for children of primary school age. It focuses on aspects of rhythm and ostinato, and it is based on the flamenco principle of 3+3+2+2+2 (12 beat cycle). Flamenco music is based on Spanish gypsy music, and is often accompanied by clapping, so there are clapping parts included for members of the orchestra. The audience may learn the simple clapping patterns so they can accompany the orchestra when they hear the patterns. The central section in 5/8 is intended as an asymmetrical contrast to the duple and triple meters of the outer sections. “Alegria” means ‘joy’ or ‘happiness’ in Spanish.
Composed at the 1984 Cambridge Summer School, Clouds over Pirongia is a short delicate piece which uses a wide variety of metallic percussion instruments. The resonant sonorities were suggested by various cloud formations over nearby Mt. Pirongia.
Luminous was one of the ‘Century Fanfares’ commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia from ten New Zealand composers in 1998. The composer writes: ‘When I was invited to write a fanfare for the new millennium I inevitably found myself considering the last one thousand years. For me, the single most striking feature of human history during the last millennium has been the increase in travel and the settling in foreign lands of smaller and smaller groups. In the distant past, an entire race of people would slowly traverse one continent. Today, an individual, in the space of a few days, is able to completely uproot from their homeland and settle in a country on the other side of the world. A friend of mine, Pan, moved to New Zealand from China. For her, the pressure to integrate two very different sets of beliefs proved ultimately overwhelming. This work is dedicated to her memory.’
Several of the melodic ideas in Other Echoes are based on New Zealand birdcalls: the first violin is the now extinct huia, the cor anglais is the endangered kokako (also the bassoons and clarinets). Piccolo, trumpet and horns also play native birdcalls The composer believes these specific calls lend themselves particularly well to instrumental or vocal imitation, and has done a similar thing in several works over the years including the Chaos of Delight series.
Lilburn was a student when he wrote Overture: Aotearoa. It was premiered in 1940, as part of the New Zealand Centennial Matinee at His Majesty’s Theatre in London. Although it did not receive its New Zealand premiere until 1959 it has since received numerous performances and several recordings. Described as a work of “unabashed optimism”, Lilburn noted that it had a, “freshness and exhilaration”.
Inspired by sparkling waters of Tasman Bay Nelson, this choral work (SSAATB) was originally composed with flute accompaniment, which has been substituted in performances by the Shakuhachi (traditional Japanese flute) and also the Koauau (traditional Maori flute). There are recordings of Pounamu with each of these flutes. The piece’s choral texture uses Maori vowel sounds and a text which is a whakatauki (proverb) from the Waikato region.