violin, cello, piano (some preparation required); all performers required to speak
Piano preparation: the strings between c’’’ and a’’’ need to have a flat metal object laid on top to achieve a bright, jangly ringing sonority (especially from mm 26-37). This/these to be removed by the pianist in the section from m 45.
The three strings F, G, A flat, should have firm rubber wedges between them to create a dull thuddy sonority (for the section at m42), but with a still discernible pitch
At water’s birth is a meditative, ritualistic work, whose sonic palette includes prepared piano sonorities and some vocalising from the players, including whispering, spoken words and whistling.
The pushing out of the boundaries of the conventional instrumental sounds is something I have employed in other works such as the whistling and knocking on the piano lid in small blue for piano and the bell and tamtam playing in Ring True. The meandering sections of the music suggest a relationship with the forces of water, its depth, currents and undercurrents and there is a sense of ritual in some of the chant-like rhythms.
These twenty (mostly very brief) bagatelles were among the first pieces I wrote while on a one-month residency at the Visby International Centre for Composers in Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, in October 2005.
The musical material I use in these Bagatelles I feel relates to my being in Europe (albeit a rather far-flung part) for the first time, and my subsequent reflection on my ‘European’ classical musical upbringing on the other side of the world in New Zealand. At times the music veers into irony, such as the violin caught in a maze of its own making (bagatelle 7) or the pianist unable to stop her rapid motions at either end of the keyboard (no. 14), sometimes to a laid-back jazzy feeling (no. 11) or quasi-improvisation (no 10); there are dance-like numbers too (4 and 19). The set ends with the longest bagatelle, a chromatic meditation over the open fifths of the cello and low register of the piano.
dirty pixels was written in response to two stimuli: an exhibition of the same name (curator, Stella Brennan) in the Adam Art Gallery featuring New Zealand artwork of a certain rough-hewn, ‘gritty’ nature; and hearing the work Jagden und Formen by German composer Wolfgang Rihm, an unremittingly wild and preposterous discourse of extremes.
These two stimuli caused something of an aesthetic dilemma: leaving behind my rather French fondness for euphonious washes of sound, I became interested in the characteristics of ‘roughness’ and ‘raggedness’, and in how a ‘pure’ conceptual scheme, such as the quite systematic construction I had formulated just prior to starting this piece, became ‘dirtied’ by intuition, by the exigencies of the material and by the reality of having it performed.
Notes taken from The NZTrio – Spark Morrison Music Trust MMT2066
Entering the stream
as if a point of no return has been reached
as light illuminating a moment of darkness
or sound log passed into silence
no trace remains, no desire or need
the stream holds life in its sway
constant flow, forever in a state of
flux, of uncertainty, our thoughts
and senses grasp the music
our craving devours beauty
yet the moment of realisation
is when time receds
as fast as we think
we have possessed it.
So, enter the stream
for you will never
be the same again
you were never
Grateful thanks to NZTrio for commissioning this work, to Creative NZ for the funding to make that possible, and to Jack Body for being part of the process.
‘Intaglio’ is a printmaking technique in which an image is etched or engraved on the surface of a plate. Ink would then be applied to the plate and removed from the surface, leaving ink only in the incisions. The title refers less to the work itself than to the process of composing it, a small insight into my ideas about how material manifests in musical shape. This piece is written in three uninterrupted movements.
Poems of a Bright Moon for flute/alto flute, clarinet and piano was inspired by the Hsiang-Yang Songs of Li Po, an 8th-century Chinese poet of the T’ang Dynasty (ca.618-906 A.D.).
On a visit to New Mexico in the United States, the discovery of the poet William Carlos Williams and the art work of Georgia O’Keeffe led to the poetry of Li Po, which conjures up visions of mountains and rivers, also very much part of the New Mexico landscape. Li Po was something of a mischievous travelling minstrel and liked to indulge in the drink somewhat. A legend says that “while out drunk in a boat, he fell into a river and drowned trying to embrace the moon.”
The moon appears in over a third of his poems, and the opportunity to combine Li Po’s images of moonlight with the rich dark tones of the alto flute was irresistible. The individual titles of the movements of this piece come directly from the poems, and the music attempts to evoke the spirit of the titles: Hsien mountain rises above emerald Han river, On a moonlit night, a recluse plays his pale white ch’in and A pure ten-thousand-mile wind arrives.
Poems of a Bright Moon was commissioned by Ethos trio with funding assistance from Creative New Zealand.
Seven bagatelles featuring (in numbers one to four) triadic motion, step-wise melodic figures and canonic movement; the fifth bagatelle is a recomposition of a late Beethoven Bagatelle; number six is scored for oboe and marimba and is a gentle melody and accompaniment; while the seventh bagatelle of the set is a passacaglia where the triadic and harmonic movement of the earlier pieces is effectively combined. Composed while I was Mozart Fellow at the University of Otago, and dedicated to Yasuko Takahashi and ‘Le Ciel Bleu’ of Antwerp.
The idea for this piece began with the Portuguese word “sono” which describes the felling of wanting to go to sleep – but in a mental rather than a physical way. In the case of this piece, the desire for sleep is inspired by wanting to rejoin a dream – and in my experience, it is always impossible to do this once having woken up.
The trio begins with an impassioned even which soon disappears, leaving the piano alone to dream about it – and you will hear a repeating note emerge which sits throughout the music, representing the real world lingering in the background. Around this note, the dream wander, in chords and gestures on the piano, and in deep breaths and ascending melodies on the strings, which never quite seem to arrive at thier destination.
Notes taken from The NZTrio – Spark, Morrison Music Trust MMT2066