This piece has arisen from my continuing efforts to ‘grow a thick skin’ as a musician! In it can be heard moments of
confrontation, vulnerability, assertiveness, discomfort and probably a whole range of emotions in between.
The ‘bulletproof’ part of the title has already been explained here. The ‘petals’ part not only alludes to the aforementioned
vulnerability – it was inspired by the fact that I used to participate in a band that played Sidney Bechet’s Petite Fleur (Little Flower).
Michael Norris’ article, Notes from a compositional/pedagogical apprenticeship, (printed in CANZONA 2005) is used as starting point for this piece. It is intended to be an artistic response to the article, a tongue-in-cheek realisation of some of the conceptual aspects that Michael discusses.
In six short movements, this playful piece takes us on a musical journey from the quiet idyll of the opening, via an anxious encounter, Argentine exuberance and an expressive duet for alto and tenor, before we pause for breath and are able once again to enjoy life with the pleasures of a Parisian night scene.
eight pieces for wind quartet was inspired by Ligeti’s extraordinary, dramatic work Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet, and my eight pieces uses this work as a model, where movements alternate between slow-moving, cloud-like textures and jittery, virtuosic interjections. The fragments of melody are constantly reaching outwards, the tense, at times nightmarish, harmonic language constantly straining, edging towards the elusive octave. Within the twelve-tone framework I wanted to create as much diversity and flexibility as possible, always keeping a tension between motion and stasis. Each piece is a kind of elaboration of the same melodic idea, a blueprint that is constructed differently each time, like seemingly unrelated episodes in a dream. Below is a short poem that I think embodies the miniature nature of each piece and the work as a whole.
if a dream came to you
you might catch it, hold it,
sculpt from it an elaborate
memory, the husk of a rushed
feeling, the miniature
interior of a moment
Improbable Mechanism is dedicated to the Bellatrix Recorder Quartet. The title conjures Heironymus Bosch and Heath Robinson in equal measure: it is an elaborate mechanical contrivance, serving no discernible purpose; a rough assemblage of phrases on the verge of grammatical expression. Simultaneous mechanistic processes are used to generate material, and much of the music lies in the friction between the these layers. Through this there is an undercurrent of melodic outbursts, further subverted by quotations from the composer’s idiosyncratic recorder improvisations.