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.
This piece was originally conceived for a mixed chamber group of 9 players, and received its first performance in 2002. It was arranged in this version for 2 pianos and 4 performers, for the Estrella Quartet, in 2011. The title refers to a scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream.
This piece is essentially a study of two elements. First is the resonance of the piano, triggered by pizzicati played by an assistant on the lowest strings. This resonance can then be altered with use of the sustain pedal; lifting the sustain pedal very gradually for example, creates the effect of a crescendo on a single note, this is something which is not normally possible on a piano. The second element is a melodic line on the keyboard. It acts as a foil by creating resonances of its own though a range of decorative figurations and implied harmonies that may or may not be sympathetic to the resonance set up by the pizzicati.
These miniatures are an exploration of musical geometries: space, time, line, synchronicity and movement. The collection is a juxtaposition of shapes: fluid and concrete, organic and mechanical, robust and fragile. Each movement explores a particular spatial concept:
II. [dislocation] III. [impulse 1]
V. [diagonal 1]
VI. [intersection] VII. [diagonal 2] VIII. [impulse 2]
The movements are paired: I & IV; II & VI; III & VIII; V & VII. Together they represent an attempt to simplify and concentrate my rhythmic language while retaining the intensity of a previous piano piece, [f]at[on]ality. Throughout the set, a number of jagged rhythmic motifs rupture and finally completely replace the initially calm musical surface. These eight miniatures were written for two good friends, Simon Edwards and pianist Flavio Villani.
Horror Vacui refers to the notion that nature abhors a vacuum, and that an empty space will always try to fill itself with gas or liquid. This principle was widely accepted by physicists for a long time until it was disproved in the 17th Century. The term literally means ‘fear of empty space’ and in visual art has come to be associated with works which are completely filled in with detail. In writing this work I was interested in creating a musical space which compulsively wants to fill itself as if the music were being sucked out from the accordion by a vacuum.
The work is dedicated to Martynas Levickis, for whom it was written.
The name of a place opens, at a word, a world rich with images and associations; a world of landscapes, seasons, lives of the people who have lived there, births, deaths, celebrations and hardships. Travelling through the north of Scotland in search of the crofter villages that my grandparents’ families had left I found weathered stones where the villages had stood. Sometimes I found nothing – just a name on an old map.
These six short pieces for solo piano were written with those lost villages in mind, no longer visible by day, but living on in the name, in the night, and in the lives of the diaspora.
Each work is constructed from distinct and different melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements. However the sound world for all six is drawn from my remembered images of granite, steep hillsides, rushing water, wild flowers, wind-bent trees, and above all, the lives lived within the villages.
As I remember, during my childhood, things always seemed more interesting outside, especially in those moments when I had to do home work or practice on the piano. My mind wandered off and my heart went outside the window. I suppose as we get older, that feeling never truly dies. Outside the window means something with fantasy, something liberating.
A “pipe dream” is a hope that is unattainable, the unrealistic dream of the idealist. This piece was written with a feeling of roaming aimlessly, searching but never finding. Although such a piece sounds at times distant, ethereal or unearthly, the inspiration or idea for the piece I (and surely many other people) often get everyday, especially under the pressures of studying at university – an artist will constantly search to find something new and impressive or never before discovered but only to be disappointed. It has been discovered before… it is experienced once, then thrown away… our art is forgettable, dispensable to the people that matter – or so we think.
This piece is composed using the whole tone scale – a sense of wandering and wondering. A simple melodic idea was constructed in a way that could be linked together seamlessly and transposed along the whole tone scale to create a dream-like quality. There are brief moments that deviate from the whole tone scale which symbolise a vision of hope or an idea, however, the questions always remain unresolved and we return to the murky water. Attention is given to pedaling technique with the intention to create a fine line between beauty and ugliness, hope and dispair. The pedal on the piano can create an exquisitely ethereal quality to the sound, yet too much can plunge us into muddy, murky waters.