This piece was composed in close collaboration with Andrew Sparling whose facility in using quarter-tone fingerings made it possible to experiment with these to produce music which exploits their timbral and colouristic qualities. It was stimulated by a return visit, following a seven-year absence, to New Zealand in 2002. Imagery of the sea is strong within its musical/poetic discourse and the piece is broadly structured over a cycle of seven ‘intensity waves’. The title is shared by an earlier work […and… 11] for 12 players (composed for Lontano in 2002). The link between these contrasting works is the morphology of the wave, encapsulated as a sonic envelope of aspirate (a) – resonant (n) – explosive (d), along with the extremes of space that are characterised in the music by extreme contrasts in dynamic, register and motion. Sparling has performed and recorded the piece in a number of different realisations. In April it was performed by Australian player Richard Haynes at the TURA International Festival in Perth and broadcast by ABC.
The title Anxome is a contraction of the word “manxome”, from the phrase in Lewis Carroll’s The Jabberwocky: “long time his manxome foe he sought”. The piece is descriptive of a state of mind: at times anxious and shy, but also playful and cheeky. It was premiered in The Committee’s ‘Lightshift’ concert. Andrew Uren performed it from a high balcony, behind the audience, who were in the dark.
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.”
This short piece was written as a twenty-first birthday present for clarinetist Esther Smaill. The melodic fragment heard at the outset soon skitters over its own unstable surface, mutates into fanfare-like repetitions, is spliced with momentary cantabile inserts, is interrupted by slow motion signposts, and blows itself out in a final burst of energy.
Circo II was written in 1996 during the composer’s course of postgraduate study at the University of Canterbury and is dedicated to Deborah Ashworth, a bass clarinettist from Wellington, who gave its first performances. The inspiration for Circo II was the desire to explore the range of sounds of a lesser-used instrument, sounds which may appear very unlike a bass clarinet. Compositions by William O.Smith (USA) and Peter Scholes (NZ) were influential during the composition of the work. The bass clarinet begins, singing in its uppermost register, rather like a male voice in its falsetto register. Soon it descends to its deepest notes, eventually breaking out in a display of harmonics, trills and ‘colour fingerings’. The work ends as it began, returning to the smooth vocal lines.
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.