This song cycle for soprano and piano has texts by the composer in Maori and English.
“Awa Herea memorably evokes the physical appearance of symbolic significance of these braided rivers… cosmic weather-driven energy.” (Covell, Sydney Morning Herald).
“Its pace was shrewdly varied and the music encompassed a range of styles – from sung declamation to florid lyricism – without incongruity.” (Jack, Independent).
“The cycle displays all the characteristics of her [Gillian Whitehead’s] mature work. The vocal line is at once exultant and contemplative, the piano writing incisive or lulling; the formal shaping novel yet accessible. It is a memorable piece, filled with the energetic spirit of the natural world and finding through that spirit its own serenity.”
In Procession I use several unorthodox playing techniques on the gamelan. The tunings of pelog and slendro are combined freely throughout; the piano remains tuned as is usual (well-tempered chromatic). The instruments are not dampened, but are left to ring on while subsequent notes are played, giving the effect of clouds of sound. Compositionally as well the piece is not at all conventional, but explores the gamelan in different ways both harmonically and melodically.
In the first movement this is through combining the close intervals between the pelog and slendro modes; in Quartet through step-wise ascending movement; in the fifth movement, a transcription of a short Liszt’s Ave Maria, the gamelan approximates the triadic harmonies of the piano original. The third movement, Melody in Pelog and Slendro, is closest to a traditional Javanese composition, although here the free intermingling of the two modes creates an unusual effect. As well, various instruments are used in atypical ways – the Gong in the first movement struck with an open palm and functioning as a rhythmic marker, or the kempul in the third movement acting as an ostinato; over this rebab and gender elaborate melodic patterns combining the two tunings. The piano is sometimes used as a timbral device (as in the opening movement) and sometimes more in a melodic manner, as in the Finale.
2222;4331; timp; 2 perc. ( triangle, snare drum, mark tree, glockenspiel, tubular bells, marimba,cowbell, vibraphone, cymbals -splash, medium crash, china crash), bass drum, tambourine, 3 high tom toms (different pitches), finger cymbals; harp; strings; solo piano; solo percussion ( vibraphone, marimba, simtak, dulcimer, bass steel drums, wind chimes (2 or 3 sets), bell tree, mark tree, triangle, finger cymbals, drum station (4 octobans, 4 tom toms, 3 paddle drums, cymbals (trash, splash, medium crash, china crash, plus a cluster of smallest-possible splash cymbals), hi-hat)
I The Furies – The Furies were avenging spirits of retributive justice whose task was to punish crimes outside the reach of human justice. Their names were Alecto, Megæra and Tisiphone. This movement contains an adapted transcription of a fragment of improvised playing by one of my favourite Greek violinists, Stathis Koukoularis (It appears as a solo for violin about 2 minutes into the movement).
II To Yelasto Paithi (The Smiling Child) – This is the closest I’ve come to expressing – in a way not possible with the spoken or written word – the feelings inspired by my precious children, Emanuel and Zoe. In this movement is also caught the summer I spent working on the concerto at my parents’ house just outside the village of Nea Michaniona – a house perched on a cliff which looks down on the Aegean and up to Mount Olympus.
III Dance of the Mænads – Draped in the skins of fawns, crowned with wreaths of ivy and carrying the thyrsos – a staff wound round with ivy leaves and topped with a pine cone – the Mænads roamed the mountains and woods, seeking to assimilate the potency of the beasts that dwelled there and celebrating their god Dionysos with song, music and dance. The human spirit demands Dionysiac ecstasy; to those who accept it, the experience offers spiritual power. For those who repress the natural force within themselves, or refuse it to others, it is transformed into destruction, both of the innocent and the guilty. When possessed by Dionysos, the Mænads became savage and brutal. They plunged into a frenzied dance, obtaining an intoxicating high and a mystical ecstasy that gave them unknown powers, making them the match of the bravest hero.