This work for full orchestra was commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. It is inspired by a quote from Comte de Salvandy, “Nous dansons sur un volcan”, said just before the revolution of 1830. The composer comments, “Like many New Zealanders I was born pretty much on a fault line and see music straddling that faultline between emotion and intellect – a harmony of fantasy and logic.”
This musical analogy to the physical phenomenon of light breaking up is written in a pointillistic style, with sinuous melodic fragments leaping across the piano keyboard in jagged cross-rhythmic dancing. Angular counter- melodies are provided by a chamber orchestra of single winds and brass with 14 strings in this single movement.
The idea of diffractions is represented in sound by the piano, central and prominent, exploiting an aspect of its technique to which it is ideally suited: rapid changes of direction and wide intervallic leaps with extreme dynamics. The orchestra provides bands of coloured spectra forming an integrated texture. The melody, oscillating and colourful is sometimes pointillistic and at other times it flows into longer continuous phrases.
Diffractions is essentially an abstract work in one continuous movement.