PROGRAMME NOTES: This piece was written as an improvisation for solo double bass. The opening section introduces the basis for the meditation. The material gradually becomes more embellished but is punctuated by a strange cadence figure which gains more importance as the piece progresses. This cadence figure expands into a more restful mood before the work mournfully unwinds to nothing.
2 | Memories Clarinet in Bb and Viola
3 | Invocation: Flute, Clarinet in Bb, Violin, Cello and Guitar
PROGRAMME NOTES: "They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them" Acts 2:3,4 (MV)
This quote inspired me to explore the nature of religious ecstasy. The structure of the piece remains very simple and is dictated by the quote. The mood begins in a subdued manner as the near unison is energising. The texture fragments as each instrument takes a turn to solo as the guitar acts as a sort of heart beat in the background. The instruments become more frenzied as the ecstasy increases until the whole ensemble lands on the unison of the beginning but in a greatly energised form as each instrument is "speaking" their version of "other tongues ".
4 | Hidden Song: String Quartet
PROGRAMME NOTES: This is a protest piece. The quartet was prompted by a community project, run by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, focusing on the global decimation of the rain forests.As part of the preparation for the project we listened to a recording of the natural sounds of a rain forest. I found it quite difficult to "tune" into the recording at first until my ears grew accustomed to the complexity of sound. The quartet evokes this sporadic and fleeting texture that I heard on the recording. As on the recording there is an emergence of a strange type of order in amongst all of that sound, the quartet mirrors the natural sounds using large cycles of material underpinning the song in the middle section.The word "Hidden" in the title refers to the mysterious hidden beauties of nature, which must be preserved at all costs.
5 | Prayer: Voice, Flute, Clarinet in Eb, viola, percussion and electronic drone
PROGRAMME NOTES: Daughter : My dark eyes are feeling very sleepy mother.
Mother : If you are sleepy Jana, have your supper and go to bed.
Daughter : After supper, sweet mother, my eyes won't fall asleep. For there will come, sweet mother, my first Love. And he will knock, sweet mother, on our gate. And he will say, sweet mother, come let me in
Soldier : Come let me in Jana, so that I can tell you something. So that I can tell you something Jana, that the two of us love each other. For I am parched, sweet Jana, like flax for water. Like flax for water Jana, like basil for dew.
The above text is a rough translation of a Bulgarian love song called "Drem ka mi se" (My dark eyes). The voice is sung in traditional Bulgarian calling style, characterised by an almost nasal but powerful timbre. The vocal line is matched by the Eb clarinet in pungence, while it introduces a new melody which is to compete with the vocal line in prominence. The structure of the piece balances improvisatory elements with more co- ordinated sections, as every one has full flexibility in expressing their parts. The melody is fragmented by the other instruments, who shadow the vocal line, as the voice improvises ever more complex embellishments in Bulgarian style until the material is fully improvised. The drone underpinning the work has a similar quality in timbre to the voice, as it "sings" it's part with minor fluctuations in pitch. The voice draws in the improvised sections with a return to the original material.
The piece ends as it began, with the drone ebbing away. It is the percussion, however, that imparts a sort of hallucinatory quality to the piece, as the percussionist improvises all the way through on the variety of gongs from the Javanese gamelan orchestra.
6 | Why?: Flute, Clarinet in Bb, Violin, Cello, Suspended Cymbal and tape
PROGRAMME NOTES: This lament was written in 1994 at the height of the Rwandan crisis and was premiered by the One Voice Ensemble in a British Red Cross charity concert.lt was the news footage of the crisis shown on the BBC which compelled me to write this work, as I watched horrified and helpless.The answer to the needless suffering has not been an easy one and from the perspective of three years on, is barely an answer at all.
The work opens with a plaintive melody on clarinet, which is taken up by the other instruments. The melody line that was introduced on clarinet opens up into four parts on a pre- recorded tape as the melody is transformed into a free flowing improvisation. This, the middle section, is supported by the ensemble as it drifts in and out of the texture. It is the cello this time who ends the work with a solo version of the original theme, perhaps contemplating a possible end to the pain of the then Rwandan refugees.
7 | Tribute to Mr. King: Organ
Commissioned by Michael Bonaventure with the financial assistance of the Scottish Arts Council and the Hope Scott Trust
I. I have a Dream
Il. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last
PROGRAMME NOTES: The tribute refers of course to the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King. Written as a companion piece to "What has happened to all that Beauty ? ", this work for organ follows the sentiments of the famous rallying speech, "I have a Dream" made by Dr. King in 1963. The speech is essentially a snap shot of the times but still has an incredible resonance with our times in the nineties. The aspirations of freedom in the speech still have yet to be completely realised. The universality of freedom from oppression is so relevant where infringements of human rights still take place on a regular basis around the world.
However, instead of looking too far afield for injustice we need only to look in our own back yard. The Stephen Lawrence case most recently examined by the Home Secretary highlights the extreme inadequacies of our own judicial system, particularly as it relates to crimes of a racial nature. This case and many others will not be resolved over night but makes the content of "I have a Dream" all the more pressing for our times.A twist of intrigue which made the inspiration for the work all the more vivid, is the reopening of the trial of James Earl Ray, who confessed to assassinating Dr. King. The King family have decided upon a retrial as James Earl Ray claims to have recanted his confession after three days, implicating the FBI in a conspiracy. What does it mean when freedom of speech for human rights is suspected to have been quashed from the very top by the most powerful nation on earth? The ramifications of this line of thought are quite disturbing.The piece itself is divided into two movements.
The first movement entitled "I have a Dream" is expansive in nature and ponders on its title, as the sonorities gently unfold. The melody in this movement gains its inspiration from a Tibetan folk song, which is very haunting yet strangely ambiguous.The second movement is headed by the quote "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last ". The material for this movement explores the emerging and not too distant future of Black American music of that time and takes inspiration from artists like Marvin Gaye and James Brown. Underlying the stylistic references is a strong religious tone as expressed by Gospel music. I wanted to show the relationship between groove music, soul, funk and jazz as all embracing a quality of celebration despite the often dire circumstances such music was created in, as the Black American artists reflected the political issues of the times by virtue of living in them. This movement is as much a tribute to their resilience and artistic brilliance as is it to Dr. King and his vision.
8 | What has happened to all that Beauty?: Voice, String Quartet and Live Electronics
Commissioned by The Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust with the financial assistance of the Scottish Arts Council
PROGRAMME NOTES: What has happened to all that Beauty? The title alludes to a line from a collection of essays called "The Fire Next Time" by the black American writer James Baldwin. In the second of the essays, Baldwin chronicles the racism taking place against the black community in sixties America. From his personal experience of racism Baldwin eloquently describes a cultural ethos pervading at that time and the future implications if such an ethos were to persist. In an essay that essentially mirrors the "I have Dream" speech of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1963, Baldwin asks, "What will happen to all that Beauty ? ". He refers, of course, to those countless individuals, whose souls have been eroded to a state of hopelessness.
I wrote this piece in response to the One Million Man March held in Washington in 1996. For me, it was of huge significance that this march had to take place, as the problems that Baldwin spoke of in his essays have not really been resolved. Even though the largely southern state Apartheid of the pre -Civil Rights Movement has been vanquished, there still remains a socio- political divide, as illustrated by the Rodney King -Los Angeles riots and more recently the much publicised court case against OJ Simpson.
Much of the beauty Baldwin talks of has by and large vanished as we look into the nineties where black on black violence is being left to fester in the community, whose poverty is firmly connected to economic factors, by the larger, richer, white community at large in both the United States and here in the United Kingdom. The title of this work bemoans this sentiment.
The work itself is divided into two seamless sections, the first of which is a sort of contemplation of the issues outlined above. The voice takes over in an attempt to unravel some of the questions posed by the strings.This section leads to the second, whose material is based on the Tanzanian liberation song "Tetsuswela" which is more upbeat in character than the first section. There is an ever present drone which begins some where near the start of the second section. The drone is triggered, by the instrumentalists, to suddenly leap in and out of the general texture whilst it is being subtly manipulated through different temperings - the major third is minutely expanded and contracted, creating an almost subliminal drama as the tension, brought about by some of the more dissonant temperings interacting with the more consonant, forms a substructure for the second section.
9 | Movements: Symphony Orchestra
PROGRAMME NOTES: This symphonic work is a tone poem describing the view of the sea as seen from Wemyss Bay on the west coast of Scotland. I was particularly impressed with the interplay of light on the surface of the sea and the way in which the clouds, partially obscuring the sun, would form a combination of sun rays and mystical pools of light on the horizon. The view was ever changing as the sun would emerge from behind the clouds and the aquatic fireworks of the sun's reflection on the sea would dance in what seemed to be a random manner. After a while of meditating upon this sight, the seemingly random formations began to make a strange kind of sense to me, as I began to hear sounds and textures that seemed to come from the sea and the sun.
The more mundane idea of a glass of water falling to the deck and shattering into many fragments in a kind of outwardly spiralling motion, also fascinated me as I accidentally dropped a glass of water on the floor. This accident was made remarkable for me because I viewed the falling glass in a slow motion, much like that of a film, and observed the shattering motion at what seemed to be close quarters.
These two images of the shattering glass and the sea formed the basic structure for the work. The piece plays on the ideas of what constitutes foreground and background material. The work deliberately uses the orchestra as a collection of chamber players as the intimacy of the fragmented material is made clear. Despite the fragmented nature of the material, certain free flowing passages fleetingly emerge from the scurrying fragments before being subsumed by the whole again. As the fragments themselves become less fragmented the material undergoes a gradual change as a unison melody striding the entire orchestra unfolds. The melody begins to twist and turn in against itself, as it forms clouds of harmonies, whilst meandering through the various sections of the orchestra. The melody almost begins to evaporate as the fragmented material returns to end the work but not without a couple of interesting diversions along the way.
10 | Journey Across the Horizon: Mezzo soprano, Mixed Voices, Chamber Orchestra and Audience participation
PROGRAMME NOTES: The piece is divided into five sections.
I - Inner Journey: The voice leads this movement as the Rag Lalit is being used as a harmonic /melodic backdrop. The rag itself is very dark and unstable as it would normally be sung at dawn. The image of a woman sitting up through the night waiting for her lover to return is important, as there is a sensual nature to the rag. The way in which the rag relates to the tonic drone, as it unfolds, is also interesting as it makes for striking dissonances.
In this movement the voice, supported by soloists from the orchestra, creates a meditative journey. The harmonies that underpin this journey are essentially static but have the effect of movement as microtonal dissonances and implied resonances of the harmony are explored. As the melody becomes ever more abstracted, reaching a state of pure contour, the harmony begins a subtle shift towards the upper partials already contained in the harmony. When the harmony is eventually stripped of its drone the harmonic shift is quite marked as the melodic material resonates in quite a different way to before.
II - Meditation This movement looks at the psychoacoustic phenomenon of Difference Tones. This section begins with a high pitched drone against which a simple melody is played. The combination of drone and melody creates a distinct third part in the inner ear, as this part is composed entirely of difference tones. The aural effect of this phenomenon will come across as a somewhat strange buzzing in the ear, until the pitches become more discernible. As the third melody is gradually voiced by the orchestra, extremely high pitched and quiet clarinet flourishes, designed to interfere with the range of the difference tone melody, can be heard. The difference tone melody is eventually voiced by the orchestra and is immediately taken into other harmonic realms briefly before returning to an intervallic expansion of a fourth by its difference tones, played by the full orchestra. It is at this point that the mixed voices join the texture with their overtone singing, before ending the movement.
Ill - Contemplation A slow cantus firmus like melody prevails in this movement as it gradually layers itself in the entire string section. Various speeded up versions of the melody are interspersed and superimposed onto the dense, slow moving layers of melody, creating a curious tableau of familiar yet strange fragments. Bell like calls in the brass and later in the strings bind the texture together, as the movement links uninterruptedly into the fourth movement.
IV - Return to Home From whispers actually using the voices of the players in the orchestra, a native American spiritual chant - Spirit of the Red Man - slowly emerges. The whispering noises are sculpted to form sound scapes over which the chant is gently intoned by the brass. The chant gradually builds until the audience is
invited to join in. At this point the solo voice soars above audience and orchestra coming down back into near silence.
V - Postlude The voice slowly unwinds to atmospherical sounds of the gong, bringing the work to a wistful close.