In many ways this is a companion piece to an earlier work, Vivid for solo trumpet, which also sets a powerful, sexually charged poem by Will Christie. But where Vivid is very often overtly violent and forceful in its gestures, deepwalker is mostly much subtler, almost passive-aggressive in outlook. The opening lines of the poem – “the day is a drum that connects these vocal loops with grey traffic circles bridge after bridge” – are mirrored in the cyclical, sometimes elliptical form of the work, loops and circles that play between registers of the clarinet. Sexual tension and aggression bubble away in the background, periodically rupturing the musical surface with piercing, angular outbursts, sometimes in parallel with the rather tender, fluid lines of the low register, and with the spoken text itself. This violent interplay creates a kind of disordered internal conversation, a bizarre hermetic character opening and shutting her windows; a clarinet of many voices.
While there is no strict programme to the piece, I like to think there are programmatic elements within it: namely contrasts of fast and slow, loud and soft, surprise and predictability, tension and relaxation, vigour and repose. In addition, the piece explores the relationship between two wind instruments – the bass clarinet and the human voice – through both dissonant and consonant relationships, including unisons, octave unisons and one note being a partial of the other’s fundamental.
Fantasy was written for the composer’s Honours-level Composition folio and for Anna McGregor’s third-year bass clarinet Performance recital at The University of Auckland. It was first performed at the Douglas Lilburn Trust Competition Prize Concert, on 12 October 2007 at The University of Auckland Music Theatre, where the composer won First Prize in the General Composition category, and the performer won the Performer’s Prize.
Acknowledgement goes to Andrew Uren, Eve de Castro-Robinson and Ros Dunlop for their invaluable assistance in the development of this piece.
This piece uses the image of a bird lost in a city, frantically trying to find a way out of the concrete that has engulfed its natural habitat. It is a political statement about the way that New Zealand is becoming this concrete jungle: individual greed and a lack of long term vision allow high intensity farming practices to destroy our rivers, and transitory councils allow increasing urban expansion to eat away at more and more of our natural land.
Flight was originally for solo flute and has been adapted by the composer especially for Anna McGregor; it is one of a number of his works that she has premiered. Although some of the lightness of the flute version is lost, the clarity and edge of the Eb Clarinet sound intensifies the frenetic elements of the piece.
A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in a stream and chatter of typewriters.”
- John Ashbery, Paradoxes and Oxymorons (1981)
This is a piece primarily concerned with notions of play and interplay – a form of game, but also a conversational experiment between somewhat disparate elements. Constantly in a state of flux, half patterns explodes a world of inflections and suggestions that grow, fray and turn in on themselves in shuddering stop-start motion.
Mandible was commissioned and premiered by Andrew Uren in 2005, with performances with 175 East and at the World Bass Clarinet Convention in Rotterdam. Its American premiere took place at the Juilliard School in New York as part of the 2006 Focus! Festival, with bass clarinetist Sean Rice. The work has been studio recorded by Andrew Uren, with engineering by James Dunlop.
Mata-au is the original name of the Clutha river, which I see from my window in the Henderson house, built by the Austrian architect Ernst Plischke where, courtesy of the Henderson Arts Trust, I was artist-in-residence. Mata-au refers to the river’s characteristic whirlpools, caused by layered currents flowing at different speeds, which resemble the wake of a giant waka, and the piece has its origins in Māori chant.