Orchestral works

Revolutionary March

Duration: 8'00"

Première

First performance: Saturday 31 August 2019; Endler Hall, Stellenbosch, South Africa; University of Stellenbosch Symphonic Wind Ensembleperformance details.

Opus 19

Transcription of Schönberg's 'Sechs kleine Klavierstücke'
To Jean-Pierre de la Porte, a fortuitous meeting
Instrumentation: 1.1.2.1-1.1.1.0-Perc: SD.BD.Cym.Tgl.Glock.Xyl-Harp.Guit.Mand.Harm.Cel-Strings (1.0.1.1.1)
Unpublished
Duration: c. 6'00"

Cello/Orchestra

Transcription of The Philosophy of Composition (2009)
Dedicated to Friedrich Gauwerky
Parts on hire
Duration: 9'15"

Programme note

Composers regularly start with beginnings, which may or may not remain beginnings, but I chose to start this piece by composing the end. Secretly I just wanted to follow the process Edgar Allan Poe use for his classic poem 'The Raven', which he sets out in the 1846 essay 'The Philosophy of Composition'. So in my piece, originally for cello and piano, I tried to find a way back from a tiny Messiaen homage written the year before. As it happens I ended up working backwards from, or towards, something completely different. I transcribed The Philosophy of Composition as Cello/Orchestra in 2013 as a gift for Friedrich Gauwerky. It lasts about 9 minutes.

Gautango

Parts on hire
Duration: 3'15"

Programme note

Gautango (Waltz-tango? Tango-waltz?), was part of the original score for Aryan Kaganof's cell phone movie SMS Sugarman, but along with much of the score never found its way into the 2007 re-edit. As it would have been the 'love theme', I made a virtuoso piano transcription for Kaganof and Nicola Deane as a wedding gift. It occurred to me that there is a cross-rhythmic waltz element which brings to mind the old song by Dick Manning and Al Hoffmann:

I can't tell a waltz from a tango

I never know what my feet are gonna do

Oh I can't tell a waltz from a tango

Darling when I dance with you.

Postcolonial Song

Duration: 5'15"

Programme note

A personal favourite, Percy Grainger is certainly one of the most colourful figures in early 20th century music. He comments on Colonial Song, one of his most beautiful pieces, thus: "No traditional tunes of any kind are made use of in this piece, in which I have wished to express my personal feelings about my own country (Australia) and people, and also to voice a certain kind of emotion that seems to me not untypical of native-born Colonials in general." 1 When Darragh Morgan asked to write an 'African' piece for CoMA, I reflected on the many individual compositions that made up African Journal (1976-2002) and distilled my ideas in Postcolonial Song, appropriate perhaps to the postcolony in which South Africans now live. I have not quoted any specific traditional African musics, though I have drawn on some of my own earlier 'African' pieces which reimagine a number of Sub-Saharan musical traditions. Grainger of course reinvented the notion of 'elastic' or 'flexible' scoring in the 20th century, which is central to this and the many other pieces written for CoMA, and his biographer John Bird's vivid description of his adventures in South Africa on a concert tour in the early years of the 20th century 2 provides another serendipitous link in this chain of happy compositional inspirations. Postcolonial Song was commissioned by CoMA (Contemporary Music for Amateurs) with funds from the Performing Rights Society Foundation, the Arts Council of England London and subscribers to CoMA's Commissioning Scheme. It is dedicated to Barry Peter Ould -- friend, Graingerphile and dedicated music publisher. It lasts just over 5 minutes.

  • 1 Grainger, Percy. 1913. Sentimentals Nr 1. Colonial Song. London: Schott & Co, 3.
  • 2 Bird, John. 1976[1982]. Percy Grainger. London: Faber & Faber, 88

Symphony ("From the Third World")

Unpublished
Duration: c. 20'00"

Out of the Darkness

African Journal No 18
Unpublished

Première

First performance: Saturday 16 July 1994; St Luke’s, Brighton, United Kingdom; Sally Rose piano, Brighton Chamber Orchestra, Guy Richardson conductorperformance details.

Concerto Grosso (in One Movement)

African Journal No 17b
Requested by Rosemary Nalden
Parts on hire
Bardic Edition Score BD in preparation
Duration: 4'00"

Première

First performance: Monday 13 July 1998; South African Broadcasting Corporation, Cape Town, South Africa; Buskaid Soweto String Project, Rosemary Nalden conductorperformance details.

Programme note

Not long after I had returned to South Africa, Rosemary Nalden asked me to arrange or compose some music for a CD of Christmas carols which the Buskaid Soweto String Project were shortly to record. I went to my 'Carol of the Three Outas', composed for the Brighton Youth Choir in the UK some years earlier, and reworked and extended it for string orchestra with two obbligato violin parts for the brilliant young leaders of the ensemble. It was first performed on 13 July 1998 at the SABC Cape Town by the Buskaid Soweto String Project conducted by Rosemary Nalden.

Kwela

African Journal No 15c
Parts on hire
Bardic Edition Score BD 857
Duration: 10'00"

Première

First performance: Saturday 21 December 2002; Mozartsaal, Stuttgart, Germany; Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Bernd Ruf conductorperformance details.

Programme note

Kwela is both about memories and memory. The idea of writing a piece which both recalled and reconstructed this particularly vivid childhood memory had been taking shape in my mind for some time. But thinking about the use of memory as a compositional device is what actually got the compositional process underway. And unlike other pieces I'd been writing at the time in which I started out with no specific formal plan in mind, here I started by letting the cyclic structure of the model shape the work.

'Kwela' is a form of urban street music that developed in South Africa during the 1950s, influenced by American jazz orchestras. In addition to the characteristic pennywhistles, a typical band would include a homemade guitar, tin rattles and a one-string bass with a wooden-box resonator (such as a tea-chest). The music they played was characterised by a repeated (cyclic) chord sequence with repetitive melodic lines for the pennywhistles. Both the chord sequence and the call-and-response structure of the melody have their origins in traditional South African bow music. David Coplan, writing about the 'kwela' phenomenon in his classic study In Township Tonight, notes that "the music gave rise to a sexually suggestive form of jive dancing called 'patha patha' (touch touch), in which partners alternately touched each other all over the body with their hands in time with the rhythm. The dancers often shouted the word 'kwela' (Zulu for 'climb on' or 'get up') to induce others to join in."

On another level Kwela is an examination of 'kwela' in the broader sense - the generic form, the characteristic sound, the musical materials, the musical origins, the performance history. I started out composing a response to another cyclic work - the Bolero of Ravel - but departed from that monolithic approach after a dozen or so cycles and took a freer approach. The original version of Kwela for chamber orchestra dates from 1992; I remixed it for strings only in 1998 and added the coda in 2002. It is scored for first and second violins, violas, first and second cellos, and basses, and lasts about 10 minutes. The first performance was given by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra conducted by Bernd Ruf on 21 December 2002 in the Mozartsaal, Stuttgart.

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