Taken from the Spanish word ‘Alborada’, Aubade (dawn) references Ravel’s great work Alborada del Gracioso. Opening with slow lyrical section the mood ranges between languid and energetic, contrasting the opening material with characterful Allegro sections. Originally composed for clarinet and piano, the piece was later orchestrated for Frank Gurr, at that time principal clarinet of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
The first in my Chaos of Delight series of pieces based on birdsong, Chaos of Delight I requires the bass clarinettiest to trill, click, screech, book and roll in a virtuosic display of avian sonorities, using the full range of the instrument, from the boom of the kakapo to the shriek of the the morepork and the bleat of the bush falcon. All these can be heard amongst sounds which exploit the unique characteristics of the bass clarinet, such as its uncannily high register, slap tonguing and multiphonics.
The title is taken from a passage in A Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand by Falla, Gibson and Turbott: “…there are still many quiet places far from the madding crowd, where the mind can become, in Darwin’s phrase, ‘a chaos of delight’ at the abundance and variety of birds which pass before the eye or perplex the ear.”
In many ways this is a companion piece to an earlier work, Vivid for solo trumpet, which also sets a powerful, sexually charged poem by Will Christie. But where Vivid is very often overtly violent and forceful in its gestures, deepwalker is mostly much subtler, almost passive-aggressive in outlook. The opening lines of the poem – “the day is a drum that connects these vocal loops with grey traffic circles bridge after bridge” – are mirrored in the cyclical, sometimes elliptical form of the work, loops and circles that play between registers of the clarinet. Sexual tension and aggression bubble away in the background, periodically rupturing the musical surface with piercing, angular outbursts, sometimes in parallel with the rather tender, fluid lines of the low register, and with the spoken text itself. This violent interplay creates a kind of disordered internal conversation, a bizarre hermetic character opening and shutting her windows; a clarinet of many voices.
Madrigal is based on the lute song Can She Excuse My Wrongs by the English composer John Dowland (1563-1626). It is built as a continuous series of free variations that progressively move further away from the original theme and that are not constrained by the original form or structure.