‘Alegria’ is an education piece for children of primary school age. It focuses on aspects of rhythm and ostinato, and it is based on the flamenco principle of 3+3+2+2+2 (12 beat cycle). Flamenco music is based on Spanish gypsy music, and is often accompanied by clapping, so there are clapping parts included for members of the orchestra. The audience may learn the simple clapping patterns so they can accompany the orchestra when they hear the patterns. The central section in 5/8 is intended as an asymmetrical contrast to the duple and triple meters of the outer sections. “Alegria” means ‘joy’ or ‘happiness’ in Spanish.
Ancient Rhythms was written during my year as Composer in Residence with the Manukau City Symphony Orchestra. It was inspired by the poem The Journey by Tessa Stephens, and contains the following instructions within the score – “Misterioso, agitato, misterioso, suddenly confident, suddenly whimsical, molto delicato/misterioso, capriciously, more thoughtful, misterioso, uneasily, capricious again, a manic race to the end”.
Time passes. Sun slides west. The tide fills in many footprints as The voyaging canoes of a new age come and go. Ebb and flow still lures Poaka the stilt over the isthmus. Nightly his cry sounds from Tamaki to Manukau, Though softer now, Muffled by the roar of new imperatives.
Dusk comes. Light dims.
A criss-cross of black seal and concrete blocks Grips the land. Weary workers inch home, Coloured beads on a black-tarred chain, fragmented, Captives in their glass privacy, Jarred by stop-go of brake-light And sense of loss.
For beneath the wheels of commerce And the grind of gears, Beneath the tinsel talk and varied hues, The mixing and matching, toing and froing, Scream of siren and choking exhaust, Beneath all this, Ancient rhythms still vibrate in the memory.
Anxiety is a common psychological disorder in modern society. It is a state of uneasiness or tension caused by over-worrying about a possible future problem or danger. Ecstasy here implies a state of exalted delight, joy, and then, gradually moves to a more extreme emotion.
A person experiences various feelings every day. However, some people have to overcome certain psychological difficulties, such as phobia or anxiety. This piece reflects two aspects of feelings, anxiety and ecstasy, which are unique in humans. One maybe we are trying to avoid, while another one, we are trying to pursue. Some people may have already experienced both of these two states in real life. Others may have just suffered anxiety but never have made the journey into the euphoria of ecstasy. It is interesting to notice that if these two feelings are persistent or triggered by certain events, they both can lead to intense emotions, such as Anxiety Attack and an ecstasy of rage.
Two movements adapted from chamber work, Barcelona Postcards.
The first movement illustrates the plethora of fish to be seen at the aquarium at feeding time. There are small fish, big fish, colourful fish and plain fish. I have tried to mimic the darting movements of the small fish with quick high grace notes and tremolos. In contrast, the darker notes of the oboe and the piano represent the bigger, slower and brooding fish.
Finding large as life puppets in the square outside the Cathedral was a delight. I imagined them to be alive, moving jerkily, interacting and dancing a little in an empty space.
The initial inspiration for Aurum came from a 1976 Bridget Riley painting of the same name. I was fascinated by the vibrant interplay of colour displayed in the painting, with wavy lines of bright yellow and white set against darker shades of blue. Each line appeared clear and separate, yet from a distance they would all merge into one luminescent texture.
As the piece progressed it took on a life of its own, however throughout the composition process I was chiefly concerned with the interaction between different instrumental and harmonic colours, and the sonic texture these interactions produced. The word ‘aurum’ itself means gold, and therefore evokes images of brightness, brilliance and wealth, but looking at Riley’s painting I noticed a darker layer that seemed to seep up from beneath the brilliance, perhaps portraying a darker side to this precious metal.