Starting in a field close to Melbourne’s Western Ring Road, a llama lives a placid and slightly bored existence. Absent-mindedly picking at a chain-link fence, a gap appears: the animal can fit itself through and escape its confines. After a few cautious steps, it lurches forward and runs in sudden jerks. Making its way down a grassy hillside, it reaches the freeway crash barrier. Occupants of moving vehicles begin to notice the animal: “there’s a llama!” After a few tries, it successfully vaults the crash barrier and makes it onto the road itself. Vehicles whizz by and drivers honk their horns, but the llama is enjoying its freedom too much to be affected by them. Reports begin to reach news services: we hear a radio news theme and the growing noise of the Twitterverse.
The din of chatter around Melbourne becomes overwhelming and little more than indistinguishable noise, so the llama retreats into its head and to its elated thoughts: “I’m free! I’m my own animal! This is my dream, I’m no longer bound by a chain-link fence! It’s a whole new world! There’s a smile on my face for the whole…”
SQUEAL!! Its reverie is interrupted by an SUV with an absent-minded yet aggressive driver: the vehicle has to brake extremely suddenly to avoid hitting the llama, and misses it only by inches. Police have arrived on the scene and have begun to divert traffic. The llama becomes outnumbered to a greater and greater degree: there’s one last chance for escape, one tricky path to freedom, one last high-stakes roll of the “OOH TASTYTASTYLLAMATREAT ON THEGRASSYBANK!! I LIKETASTY LL… oh damn.”
Thirty minutes later, in the same field close to the Western Ring Road, the llama is once again bored. Picking at the chain-link fence, there’s no chance of escape. The fence has been repaired, the gap closed, the llama’s life restored to its former boredom.
This piece was originally conceived for a mixed chamber group of 9 players, and received its first performance in 2002. It was arranged in this version for 2 pianos and 4 performers, for the Estrella Quartet, in 2011. The title refers to a scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream.
This work is dedicated to Barry Margan, who commissioned it. We collaborated extensively on its inspirations, sonic, literary and metaphysical and he provided the poetic titles of the first and third movements. The title (and that of the second movement) and the garden was full of voices is from a line of Bill Manhire’s: I stayed a minute/and the garden was full of voices.
The garden and its metaphorical voices, songs, chants and echoes come to life in this ritualistic and meditative work, from the tui calls of the first movement, transcribed directly from my garden, to the more abstracted whistles and nocturnal, dreamlike vocalisations of the second and third. A preoccupation with repeated notes throughout sprang from those of the tui which pervaded Auckland this summer.
This piece is essentially a study of two elements. First is the resonance of the piano, triggered by pizzicati played by an assistant on the lowest strings. This resonance can then be altered with use of the sustain pedal; lifting the sustain pedal very gradually for example, creates the effect of a crescendo on a single note, this is something which is not normally possible on a piano. The second element is a melodic line on the keyboard. It acts as a foil by creating resonances of its own though a range of decorative figurations and implied harmonies that may or may not be sympathetic to the resonance set up by the pizzicati.
These miniatures are an exploration of musical geometries: space, time, line, synchronicity and movement. The collection is a juxtaposition of shapes: fluid and concrete, organic and mechanical, robust and fragile. Each movement explores a particular spatial concept:
II. [dislocation] III. [impulse 1]
V. [diagonal 1]
VI. [intersection] VII. [diagonal 2] VIII. [impulse 2]
The movements are paired: I & IV; II & VI; III & VIII; V & VII. Together they represent an attempt to simplify and concentrate my rhythmic language while retaining the intensity of a previous piano piece, [f]at[on]ality. Throughout the set, a number of jagged rhythmic motifs rupture and finally completely replace the initially calm musical surface. These eight miniatures were written for two good friends, Simon Edwards and pianist Flavio Villani.
Horror Vacui refers to the notion that nature abhors a vacuum, and that an empty space will always try to fill itself with gas or liquid. This principle was widely accepted by physicists for a long time until it was disproved in the 17th Century. The term literally means ‘fear of empty space’ and in visual art has come to be associated with works which are completely filled in with detail. In writing this work I was interested in creating a musical space which compulsively wants to fill itself as if the music were being sucked out from the accordion by a vacuum.
The work is dedicated to Martynas Levickis, for whom it was written.
In Interference two players perform on the same instrument. One performer plays on the keyboard as per usual, while the other works inside the piano. The two players do not strictly speaking perform as a duo, instead a musical discourse is created by the way in which the two parts interfere with one another. The inside player manipulates the sound primary with the use of their hands, or else with a series ‘flexible preparations’ that interact with the keyboard part in a fluid and tactile way. Each section of the piece then explores this relationship from a slightly different angle.
I held a seasonal contract on an Australian cruise ship, whose main cruise was a week long circuit. I became interested in the overlapping cycles the crew were subjected to; the cyclic motion of the waves, the repetition of tasks, and the repetition of the cruise. None seemed more affected than the cirque performers, who spent hours in additional cycles of their own, as they stretched, juggled, and spun away the hours until their return home. These movements are a reflection of those cycles and cirque disciplines.