Starting in a field close to Melbourne’s Western Ring Road, a llama lives a placid and slightly bored existence. Absent-mindedly picking at a chain-link fence, a gap appears: the animal can fit itself through and escape its confines. After a few cautious steps, it lurches forward and runs in sudden jerks. Making its way down a grassy hillside, it reaches the freeway crash barrier. Occupants of moving vehicles begin to notice the animal: “there’s a llama!” After a few tries, it successfully vaults the crash barrier and makes it onto the road itself. Vehicles whizz by and drivers honk their horns, but the llama is enjoying its freedom too much to be affected by them. Reports begin to reach news services: we hear a radio news theme and the growing noise of the Twitterverse.
The din of chatter around Melbourne becomes overwhelming and little more than indistinguishable noise, so the llama retreats into its head and to its elated thoughts: “I’m free! I’m my own animal! This is my dream, I’m no longer bound by a chain-link fence! It’s a whole new world! There’s a smile on my face for the whole…”
SQUEAL!! Its reverie is interrupted by an SUV with an absent-minded yet aggressive driver: the vehicle has to brake extremely suddenly to avoid hitting the llama, and misses it only by inches. Police have arrived on the scene and have begun to divert traffic. The llama becomes outnumbered to a greater and greater degree: there’s one last chance for escape, one tricky path to freedom, one last high-stakes roll of the “OOH TASTYTASTYLLAMATREAT ON THEGRASSYBANK!! I LIKETASTY LL… oh damn.”
Thirty minutes later, in the same field close to the Western Ring Road, the llama is once again bored. Picking at the chain-link fence, there’s no chance of escape. The fence has been repaired, the gap closed, the llama’s life restored to its former boredom.
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…”
‘eye-glitter out of black air 1’ is part of a cycle of pieces written for the players of the Slovene wind quintet Slowind. To date, the cycle includes solo pieces for all of the instruments of the standard wind quintet, two wind quintets and a piece for wind quintet and orchestra.
‘eye-glitter out of black air 2’ is the second version of a wind quintet that forms part of a cycle of pieces written for the players of the Slovene wind quintet Slowind. To date, the cycle includes solo pieces for all of the instruments of the standard wind quintet, two wind quintets and a piece for wind quintet and orchestra.
This composition is based on a Chinese poem by Wang We (701-761), who was one of the most admired Tang Dynasty poets and painters. Many of his works take a Buddist perspective, and reflect his focus on Zen practice. He is able to combine love of nature with the philosophy of life. Su Shi (1037-1101), a Chinese litterateur and artist once said, “The quality of Wang Wei’s poems can be summed as, the poems each hold a painting within them. In observing Wang Wei’s paintings you can see that, within the painting there is poetry.”
This work was written for the NZTrio while I was the inaugural University of Otago/James Wallace Artist in Residence at the Pah Homestead.
Twinkle twinkle little star
how I wonder what you are?
A little bit hound, a little bit fox,
a junkie for the ballot box?
Twinkle twinkle little star
who’d have thought you’d come this far.
[adapted from Sam Mahon’s A Knight’s Tale]
While Jekyll Rat is based on a prominent New Zealand politician, it unfortunately could be applicable to a number of political figures. It deals with my anger and frustration that a number of local body representatives and nationally elected politicians forget that they were elected to represent their constituents and instead become absorbed by the power and prestige of the position, or use their power and influence for personal gain.
Jekyll Rat has three movements. The first “Me ne frego” (translation: I don’t give a dam), starts with the statement of the principal theme but then over the course of the movement is gradually consumed by an insidiously growing chromatic semiquaver sequence in the strings. The second “Sycophant’s Dance,” moves between sections of slightly awkward and clumsy pomposity, teetering fragility and vicious rage. The final movement “Insanity represented by Mustard Yellow” is fast and frenetic until it finally ends with an almost elegiac reprisal of the principal theme.
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.
Mata-au is the original name of the Clutha river, which I see from my window in the Henderson house, built by the Austrian architect Ernst Plischke where, courtesy of the Henderson Arts Trust, I was artist-in-residence. Mata-au refers to the river’s characteristic whirlpools, caused by layered currents flowing at different speeds, which resemble the wake of a giant waka, and the piece has its origins in Māori chant.