Antonyms of Trust is a poem about water; about how our water is being stolen and degraded, about the many New Zealand rivers with signs saying “do not swim – may cause illness” or the dry riverbeds surrounded by farmland with constantly pumping pivot irrigators. “Once upon a better time, the poor man’s wine flowed beneath our feet and bubbled up between the streets…”
On May 25 2010, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, also known as “Three Strikes” legislation, sponsored by David Garrett, the ACT Party, and the Sensible Sentencing Trust, and supported by the National Party, under Prime Minister John Key. The law imposes mandatory maximum sentences on offenders who commit three “Strike” offences, removing judicial discretion. An almost identical bill was passed in California in 1994. California’s crime rate remains 11% above the national average, its prison population has increased to nearly 200,000, and its recidivism rate is the highest in the United States.
“I enjoyed performing and recording Eulogy very much. Such a warmth of texture and harmonies which created a sympathetic palette for Olivia Macassey’s word painting” – Kenneth Young
My decision to set this text for orchestra initially arose, not only from reading the poem and appreciating it for what it is, but also from the recent passing of a dear musician colleague with whom I had collaborated on many early jazz projects.
However, at time of writing, I have become most un-nerved by the senseless loss of young life that has been occurring with alarming regularity at a couple of schools I have recently taught at. It was with these tremendously sad, sudden passings in mind that I completed my work on the piano short score of Eulogy, before commencing work on its orchestration.
This is a good old-fashioned fanfare – an introductory piece to kick-start a concert. It’s based around what I believe to be engaging tunes, inspiring brass and a healthy dose of celebratory bells, filtered through my own rhythmic and harmonic sensibilities.
Fanfare 10 was workshopped by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and conductor Luke Dollman as a finalist in the 2010 NZSO/Todd Corporation Young Composers Competition.
Aotearoa is a long narrow land surrounded by sea and buffeted by the wind. We who live here learn to know the direction of the prevailing winds and to track the changes in the sky and on the water. As a child visiting grandparents in Wellington I was mesmerised by the evanescent sweep of wind and wave patterns on the harbour surface as gusts blew silver and black across the water. I listened to the adults talk; they spoke of ‘southerly changes’, of ‘squalls’, and of the wind ‘going around to the south’. A new language that conjured images of a dynamic interchange with the wind. The line ‘learning to nudge the wind’ is taken from a Stella McQueen poem, and captures for me that relationship. ‘Learning to nudge the wind’ was written for St. Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra and had its first performance in May 2010.
six pieces for orchestra grew out of another, more substantial piece for wind quartet, which in turn was inspired and heavily influenced by Ligeti’s Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet. In some senses this is an orchestration or arrangement of my own work (eight pieces for wind quartet), but the aural experiments set up in that original piece are pushed further here, at times to the point of extreme severity. Three cloud-like movements are broken up by virtuosic, acerbic little interludes, each miniature movement exploring different psycho-acoustic directions and instrumental effects.
Written in 2010 this is my first large-scale orchestral work.
Each of the four movements is based on the idea of one of the four classical elements – Fire, Water, Air, Earth. It also contains an idea of the creation of the world.
It employs a large orchestra and is fairly traditional in form and structure. Each of the movements has thematic links which unify the piece.
Symphony No. 3 was composed as part of Anthony Ritchie’s work as senior lecturer in composition at the University of Otago, in Dunedin, New Zealand. It was written over a period of two years between 2008-2010, without a specific orchestra in mind. It will be recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under conductor, Tecwyn Evans, in 2010, as part of a CD of Anthony Ritchie’s orchestral compositions. The premiere live performance will take place in The Otago Festival of Arts, October 2010, with the Southern Sinfornia orchestra in Dunedin. The composer wishes to acknowledge the support of the University of Otago in writing this symphony.
This symphony is a portrayal of two sides of human personality, represented by the two movements of the work: ‘Up’ and ‘Down’. The music depicts the constant struggle to find balance in one’s life, in terms of mood and relationship with other people.
Broadly speaking, ‘Up’ is active, busy, bright in mood. Musical motifs and themes emphasize upward progressions, while the orchestration is lively and colourful. Full of blazing brass and high-pitched woodwind, ‘Up’ is associated with images of the sun, and outdoors activity. Percussion play an important role rhythmically, especially the combination of log drum and tom toms. Eventually the lively character of the music loses control, leading to a riotous climax involving the percussion and full orchestra in unison. The music disintegrates into a short oasis of calm, before the busy mood is gradually reestablished, and brings the movement to a bright end, on a D Lydian chord.
‘Down’, by contrast, is melancholic, slow and mournful in mood. If ‘Up’ is associated with the sun, then ‘Down’ is associated with Saturn. There is also reference made to Durer’s famous woodcut, Melancholia (1514), in which a magic square appears. The numbers on this square are used to generate themes and ideas in this movement – the opening piccolo melody, underpinned by wispy strings, for example. A second theme, featuring tuba and bass trombone, refers to a ‘tuatara’ teme written by the composer in 1991, and here is ponderous in tone. Following a gradual buildup a faster section emerges, full of tension and unresolved progressions. The angry protests subside, and a mysterious passage recaps the first theme, accompanied by constantly shifting strings. Out of the depths emerges a bass clarinet, playing a bird-like theme, which is picked up by the other woodwinds in a fugue, which refers back to the earlier quick section. After a brief silence, the second theme reappears but this time in a passionate, full-blooded version that leads to a tense climax. The music searches for resolution, and eventually finds it in a lyrical coda for strings alone, to start with. Themes from earlier in the symphony are transformed and the overall key centre, D, is hinted at but never quite reached. The chiming of a clock suggests the never-ending passing of time, and the log drum, so prominent in the first movement, returns to conclude the work.
Walter Bolton was the last man executed for murder in New Zealand, hanged at Mt Eden Prison on 18 February 1957. He was convicted of poisoning his wife Beatrice with arsenic on their Whanganui farm.
The story of his trial, questionable guilt and subsequent execution continues to raise many questions. Is it right to take a person’s life in exchange for another? What if society’s judgement was wrong? Would our society have made the same judgement today?
But even more compelling than these moral questions is why a man like Walter Bolton would have been driven to murder in the first place. The prosecution contended that he had deliberately put sheep dip in her food; however arsenic was also found in the farm’s water supply – probably because it had leeched in from the normal daily use of that same sheep dip. The clincher for the jury’s guilty verdict was Walter’s admission that he had been having an affair with his sister-in-law, Florence – salacious but ultimately only circumstantial evidence. The decision to execute him was rushed: the trial took place shortly before Christmas 1956 and the judge and jury would have felt pressed to make it home to their families. Up until his death, Walter continued to maintain his innocence. Florence, a spinster, committed suicide soon after his execution and was rumoured to have left a note admitting to the killing.
This combination of our script and music is a fictionalised interpretation of these historical circumstances. We have put Walter Bolton in his Mt Eden Prison cell in the early dawn hours before his execution. His mind wanders to his deceased wife Beatrice, his lover Florence, and the grotesque pantomime of the judicial system as he saw it. In The Lover’s Knot, he awaits the hangman’s noose.