Counting through the tones of ‘In a Landscape’ by John Cage, in the manner of counting a rosary. The title means an offering to Buddha; this is not so much a material offering but more that of a good heart.
Composed in Toronto in June, 2001 and first performed by the Natsuki Emura Piano Duo in a concert of New Zealand piano music at MusiCasa, Tokyo in October 2001.
These three pieces for solo piano were commissioned by pianist Michael Houstoun. Each is concerned with aspects of deja vu or ‘second sight’ including sensations of past lives, strangely familiar places and the cyclical nature of experience. The second of these pieces is published by SOUNZ in First XV.
Etudes Book I is the first volume of a two-volume set of piano etudes dealing with compositional rather than with pianistic concerns. Most importantly, it finally gives full expression to my interest in musics outside the arena of so-called western “art” music.
Nam Phat Khay is a literal transcription of a solo played by Nouthong Phimvilayphone on the Kaen, a Laotian reed instrument. The player should note that the contrast is in the subtlety of the changing rhythm in the left hand melody. The title means “In the Current of the MeKong” and the original can be heard on a CD by Harminia Mundi entitled, LAOS – Lam Saravane – Musique pour le khene.
Sandouri is the name of a Greek instrument used in another literal transcription I have made. The recording is from a CD entitled Memories of the Peoples (on Auvidis-Unesco) of Konsolas Ermollos, a Sandouri player from Greece. The Sandouri is a distant relative of the modern Pianoforte. This movement can be played directly onto the strings inside the piano with xylophone mallets or something of that nature. However, it is has also been performed to great effect on the keyboard whilst placing aluminium or tin foil under the dampers.
Most Done Travelling In this movement I transcribed the melody of a Gospel song as sung by the Tuskegee Institute Singers recorded in 1917. The track was from a record entitled, An Introduction to Gospel Song on Folkways Records. I then harmonized the melody in my own way, and in the middle of the transcribed tune I placed a series of four-bar pan tonal variations. The variation where the inside of the piano should be strummed like an autoharp is most effective when a metal thimble is placed on the finger of the hand that is strumming. The variation with harmonics on the strings requires the indicated strings to be touched at one half length, producing a sound one octave higher than written.
Komer Chakra is more of an arrangement than the first two. The melody is from a group of Quechuan panpipe and drum players recorded in the Community Kaalaya, Bautista Saavedra Province of Bolivia. Like the second movement, it too is from a CD entitled Memories of the Peoples. The melody itself was very hard to transcribe (despite its apparent simplicity) because of all the overtones resulting from such a large group playing together. I then harmonized the melody in my own way. The left hand plays the rhythm of the drum as heard in the original recording.
Krivo Horo Like the previous movement, this is more of an arrangement than a literal transcription. The recording is from a Nonesuch CD entitled, Dances of the World, and it is a Bulgarian village band playing a “crooked dance” (hence the title). In the original, there are two wind instruments: a kaval (7-hole reed pipe), and a gaida (bagpipe) which sometimes play in unison, but for the most part, play a subtle and intricate counterpoint. For this reason, I have often ‘simplified’ the melody so it may be played by the right hand on the piano and the left hand may play the accompaniment.
The Fifith Suite was written for the organ in the Maclaurin Chapel in the University of Auckland, NZ, which is tuned in 1/5 comma Pythagorean meantone – so the five black notes are B flat, C sharp, E flat, F sharp and G sharp, and that’s it!
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.