The overall conception of the piece is underpinned by an evolving, wave-like movement – continuous cycles stretching/compressing/proliferating. There is a strong connection to the sea, as in [… and…11], composed in 2002. A passacaglia of seven chords, gradually permutating until they eventually assemble into reverse order, form the ground or ‘canvas’. The various textural and linear surfaces of the piece all emerge from this ground as reflections, extensions, compressions, or distillations of the core material. Quarter-tones (division of the chromatic scale into 24 tones instead of the usual 12) enrich and intensify the harmony while rendering it more tactile and less pitch-defined.
“The 7-minute a gentle infinity…is both atmospheric and deft in Ker’s handling of a large orchestra, subtly dynamic (not least in the use of percussion), edgily communicative, and vibrant in its imagery; a piece full of good things, arguably cut off prematurely. Conducted by Pavel Kotla, the LSO once again suggested that Ker (in attendance) is a composer to watch out for.”
Originally, A Jazz Burlesque was composed as a piano solo. It was later arranged for accordion trio, then for accordion orchestra. This string arrangement followed for the all female string ensemble ‘String Silhouette’.
A Musical Party was commissioned by the New Zealand Accordion Association (NZAA) to commemorate their 30th anniversary in June 2001. The weekend and Musical Party was dedicated to Silvio De Pra, honouring him for his outstanding contribution to the accordion in New Zealand. He has chaired the Accordion Examination Board of NZ Inc. since its inception in 1972 and been chief examiner since 1992.
A Musical Party was premiered by a massed accordion orchestra and conducted by the composer, Gary Daverne. It was later revised and arranged for solo accordion and symphony orchestra, which is the version that appears here.
During 2007 I spent a lot of time making field recordings of background noise in Paris, and analysing the spectral and rhythmic content of those recordings. I found the more I listened to my recordings, the more musical material I found hidden in these background hisses and hums, chatterings and otherwise banal noises: rhythms, mysterious melodies, energies and harmonic tensions. While working on this commission for the NZSO, I decided to try to capture the intrinsic musical essences I could hear in my field recordings, and interpret those sounds in an orchestral context, with the juxtaposition of the original noise recordings finding musical relationships in the orchestral counterpart. The resulting piece is a conjuring of various energies, or furies, caught in the background noise of Paris, and finding their way into the back of my throat to be sung into a quiet fury.
This music was originally commissioned by Richard Campion for the New Zealand Players’ production of Ring Round the Moon by Jean Ahhouil, translated by Christopher Fry. In the second act there is a ball taking place offstage and demanding a large number of dances which are specified in the text.
The music was first recorded on acetate discs by a ad hoc orchestra led by Alex Lindsay; these small recordings were then played through speakers for the production, sounding very loud to the cast but filtering out more gently to the audience. At the end of the long national tour, the cast knew the music very well and suggested to me that I should do something with it.
The result, some years later, 1957, was a suite of nine dances first performed by the Alex Lindsay Orchestra. This rapidly became my most performed piece and was commercially recorded by the Alex Lindsay Orchestra in the 1960s, a recording still available today from Kiwi Pacific Reords.
Ashley Heenen, through the NZ APRA Committee, commissioned an arrangement for full orchestra for the NZ Youth Orchestra to take on a tour of Europe and China in 1975. This version was shortened to six dances by leaving out the first three numbers. The music has also been used for a ballet, The Wintergarden, choreographed by Arthur Turnbull for the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company – this version included a tenth dance not in the 1957 Suite. Since 1975 two further version have been commissioned: Waltz Suite (1989), for string orchestra (five dances) for the Nova Strings, and an arrangement of the original Dance Suite (1992) for violin and piano (nine dances) for Isador Saslav.
A Village Wedding combines two different conceptual approaches; that of the program piece wherein images or activity is described by music; and that of the concerto grosso, a Baroque form which both collectively and individually showcases the players of an ensemble. In the latter case, the piece would seem to fulfill many if not all of the 18th-century requirements. After an overture, movements based on dance rhythms ensue, including the Pavane, March, Gigue, and Rigadoon. Yet the material is cast in a mold that is necessarily programmatic. The Overture, with its opening solemnity, birdsong trills, and developing energy, is intended to describe the bright Sunday morning of a country village, along with the excitement and bustle of wedding preparations. The _Meditation_’s searching cadenza and pensive sweetness exhorts the attendants to send out their blessings to the bride and groom, while the Processional calls the wedding party to the altar. The Dance at the end paints a fiddler’s paradise of flying knees and elbows to jigs and reels as the whole village joins in the revelry.
The piece is dedicated to the composer’s fiancée Erica, and acknowledges with gratitude and appreciation the dedication and excellence of the members of the YPCO.