The title itself is a play on the words “fatality” and “tonality”, the two words and concepts colliding to form “[f]at[on]ality”. Similarly, the music presents two contrasting musical languages that intersect and compete violently for dominance. The first of these is a tonal language, represented by various types of (major/minor etc.) chords derived from four constituent triads of a twelve-tone row. The first phrase presents this language in conflict with itself, collapsing two triads into a hexachord at the punctuation points of the phrase. These chords then begin to extricate and extrapolate themselves, – beginning in the right hand at the start of the second phrase – under which the twelve-tone row (presented in the accelerating and decelerating lines of the first phrase) is fragmented and rhythmically manipulated. This twelve-tone row represents the second musical language, that is, a quasi-serial atonal language that is subjected to transformation by inversion, retrograde, multiplication etc. While on one level the music is concerned with the intersection and interdependence of these languages, it is also concerned with the dramatic consequences of that collision. The dynamic and rhythmic frameworks are somewhat extreme, providing a constantly surging, climactic structure that, in the end, resolves ambivalently. The inspiration for the piece came from a poetic doodle, reprinted below:
wanting to dis / dys
place / figure / function
this fatal tonality
this [f]at[on]al entity
cacophonic / catatonic
coughed up and codified
maybe some kind of
superficial facticity / deep fiction
palimpsestic / incestuous
Arapatiki was commissioned by Stephen De Pledge as one of a series of Landscape preludes, and received its first performance in the Wigmore Hall, London, in January, 2004. Arapatiki translates (from the Maori language) as ‘the way of the flounder’, and is the ancient name of the sand flats in front of my house at Harwood, near Dunedin. The piece has something to do with the advance and retreat of the tide across the flats, where many species of sea and water birds spend much of the day – an ever-varying water-scape. The opening idea is based on the song of the korimako or bellbird.
Chiaroscuro is a method used in the visual arts applying light and shadow to create the illusion of three-dimensional objects. If light comes from only one source, and therefore from one direction, then all light and shadow will be determined by the rules that this implies. ‘Chiaroscuro’ was commissioned by Stephen De Pledge in 2005.
Everyone of my generation remembers the ‘Goodnight Kiwi’ – the animation that used to signal the end of television for the night in the days when we only had two channels to choose from.
I remember the rare occasions I was allowed to stay up late enough to see the Goodnight Kiwi carry out his nightly duties. It was always way past my bedtime and therefore overwhelmingly exciting. But I always felt very melancholy afterwards. I would lie awake for hours thinking about the kiwi shutting down the power and climbing up to sleep in the sky. It seemed so final.
As I was composing this piece in 2004, my mother was approaching the end of a long illness and she and I were going through a process of looking through photographs, telling the stories that accompanied them and wondering what
lay ahead. It made me remember long summers, lawn-mowers, barbeques, pohutukawa trees at the beach and a time in life that wasn’t weighed down with responsibilities or fears for the future. This piece is an emotional landscape that tries to evoke that feeling of nostalgia, presenting childhood memories into which the future begins to creep.
I imagined my mother was setting off on the same journey as the kiwi… wandering through the building, shutting down the power and then climbing up to sleep in the sky. I wrote this piece for her.
Written during a month-long residency in November 2005 at the Visby International Centre for Composers, in Visby on the Swedish Baltic island of Gotland, this piece was inspired by the surroundings there- the history related to its importance in the Hanseatic League and prior to that the long Viking period; and in particular the old town with it’s beautifully preserved encircling medieval town wall.
The piece consists of seven descriptive historical episodes, and includes two poems to be narrated by the pianist in episodes 2 and 7- ‘Clouds’ and ‘Centuries’. The vocalisations are mainly sung, hummed and whistled sounds, along with the breaths of the third section indicating the onerous task of building the wall.