Rakaia is a work for full orchestra characterised by the great Rakaia River in the South Island of New Zealand. The Rakaia begins its journey in the Southern Alps and reaches the Pacific Ocean 150km later just south of Christchurch. This piece follows that journey.
When I spent time studying in the South Island, the visits to and when crossing over the Rakaia river were always a sense of thorough enjoyment and amazement. When the opportunity arose to write a ‘river inspired’ work, the Rakaia was the clear choice.
Part of the commission of Rakaia was to write in a style both enjoyable and challenging for the players and audience, and for it to appeal to wide variety of audiences – young, old, families, a usual ‘concertgoing’ audience and those who are not.
Rakaia was commissioned by the Auckland Symphony Orchestra in June 2007 and was premiered in the Auckland Town Hall on Sunday 5th August 2007 under the baton of Gary Daverne.
Senryu – a Japanese poetic form similar to haiku “An inquiry into the nature of man”. Associating a poetic form with this music concerns the regular balanced proportions of section lengths. This strict formal outline is articulated freely and intuitively. A note on the metronome markings: The metronome markings are all defined by an increasing ration of 7:6. There is a 3/4 bar before each metronome change to give the proportional relationship leading to the new tempo. However each new tempo has been given a standard metronome mark which doesn’t correspond exactly to the mathematically correct tempo. This means that each new tempo can be rehearsed separately with standard metronome markings. It is also an indication that the metronome markings do not have to be treated too dogmatically. Suggestion for rehearsing: Practise each section separately at the correct tempo and later negotiate the tempo modulations to link them together. A matter of balance: In Senyru instrumental balance should be related to the string pizzicatos. In almost all cases the pizz notes need to balance with bowed notes or piano notes. Thus, the whole work will be relatively quiet but must still be intensely energetic!
The poem Tangi was written by Megan Simmonds, a New Zealand poet who lives in the Bay of Plenty. I wanted to explore the use of vocal overtones in this piece; they have often been connected with the spiritual or other-worldly in the various cultures where the technique is practiced.
A tangi (or tangihanga) is a Māori funeral ceremony. The opening material, and position of the singers, is influenced by the Māori powhiri, where visitors are received onto the marae in a customary series of calls and songs by the tangata whenua, each reciprocated in turn by the visitors.
‘Terrain vague’ is marginalised urban space often ignored in traditional architectural discourse. Terrain vague is underused or misused. It is liminal space, transitional, under construction, in process. Terrain vague presents problems and offers resistance.
“But that is the beginning of a new story – the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life.” Dostoyevsky, ‘Crime and Punishment’ (translated – C. Garnett)
The Sleep of Reason takes its name from a print by Goya. While the resonances of the full quotation from Goya “The sleep of reason brings forth monsters” might be seen to have wide ranging political and religious implications today, one could just ask the question – is this a piece of music conceived and articulated without reason? and if so – is it a monster?
I welcomed this commission to write a small piece for Stephen De Pledge, but baulked a little at the idea it that should be related to landscape, a concept that can easily fall into cliché. But then all physical places are in fact landscape, including the street where I have lived for the last 35 years (echoes of My Fair Lady), in the city I love.
This work creates a counterpoint between my own voice and its ‘musical analogue’, as played on the piano.