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...like a Maelstrom

piano & trumpet in C

& small orchestra (2 x perc, strings).

2013: 26 mins. approx.


...like a Maelstrom takes its title from the opening lines of a poem by Emily Dickinson, and is - as the title suggests – energetic and turbulent, providing a thorough workout for both soloists. It was commissioned by Arcko Symphonic Ensemble's artistic director Timothy Phillips to feature the talents of Arcko regulars Peter Dumsday (piano) and Bruno Siketa (trumpet), and was premiered on 21/02/2015 at the Church of All Nations in Carlton.

...like a Maelstrom is in one continuous movement, has a duration of about 26 minutes, and is dedicated to Joseph Bono (1926-2013).  


“'Twas like a Maelstrom, with a notch,

That nearer, every Day,

Kept narrowing its boiling Wheel..."

                            Emily Dickinson (1830-1886).

Score Sample (PDF)




2222, 2231, timpani, 1 x perc, harp, strings.

2000: 10 mins. 20 secs.


Eirenicon is defined in various sources as being:

- a proposition for peace,

- a statement to bring into harmony or synthesize conflicting doctrines,

- an articulated compromise or reconciliation.

I encountered this word while searching for a title prior to starting work on my piece. It was, coincidentally, at a time when our Prime Minister of the day had yet again passed up an opportunity to advance the cause of reconciliation with our indigenous population, but had been able to express sorrow for the plight of textile workers who had recently been thrown out of work. Indeed, I too felt sympathy for the workers involved, but their plight seemed relatively inconsequential when compared with patent violations of human rights over the course of some two hundred years. I was therefore somewhat disturbed by the priorities being displayed by our national leader, and more than a little annoyed by his obstinate refusal to reasonably address an issue that so many Australians wish to see brought to an amicable resolution. Against this background Eirenicon struck me as an eminently suitable title.

Eirenicon was commissioned by Symphony Australia with assistance from the Australia Council, and premiered by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth on 26/8/2000, under the direction of Kenneth Young. It is dedicated to all those who have genuinely sought to advance the cause of reconciliation.

Score Sample (PDF)


String Orchestra

...floating in the void...

minimum 4,4,2,2,1.

1995 rev. 2005: 8 mins. 30 secs.


...floating in the void... is for String Orchestra: minimum forces of 4/4/2/2/1, divided as follows: 2+2/2+2/1+1/1+1/1

The ideal performance set-up would see a relatively small audience seated in a circle (preferably on the floor) facing inwards to where the conductor would be standing. The audience would in turn be encircled by the players, who would be spaced evenly in the following sequence: Vn1.a - Vn2.a - Va1 - Vc1 - Cb - Vc2 - Va2 - Vn2.b - Vn1.b

Lighting should be kept to the minimum required for performance, and the audience should be encouraged to listen to the performance with their eyes closed.

In circumstances where this is clearly not a practical possibility, the players should at least be spread in sequence as much as possible to at least partially convey the effect the ideal set-up would realise. In all such cases, the solitary Cb should be situated centre-front in relation to the audience.


"...I am now quite alone...

here floating in the void,

only dimly aware of existence,

a dimly existing awareness..."

            from Pioneers over c, by Peter Hammill.


...floating in the void... was premiered by the Arcko Symphonic Project at the Richmond Uniting Church, Melbourne, on 30/5/2009, under the direction of Timothy Phillips.

Score Sample (PDF)


Large Ensemble


for 10 players.

flute/alto flute/piccolo, oboe/cor anglais, Eb/Bb clarinet, Bb bass clarinet, trombone, percussion, violin, viola, 'cello, double bass.

1994 rev. 2001: 14 mins. 30 secs. approx.


"...I am the one who crossed through space,

or stayed where I was,

or didn’t exist in the first place..."

            from Pioneers over c, by Peter Hammill.


Commissioned by the ELISION ensemble, Sphinx was completed in 2001 bringing to a close an extended period of re-evaluation that - through the refinement of earlier scores and the resolution of disparate influences - resulted in the clarification of my compositional thinking and provided the impetus for the many new works that have followed.

Excerpts of lyrics by English songwriter Peter Hammill - whose imagery has also served to trigger several other (mostly early) works - accompany the piece. Sphinx is dedicated to Daryl Buckley, who was responsible for several of the earliest significant commissions.

Given the gist of the quote and the associations most commonly evoked by the word Sphinx - mythological creatures, riddles, ancient monuments, enigmatic individuals - it seems somehow appropriate that this piece is built on material taken from a guitar solo (part of which no longer exists), is dedicated to a guitarist, and yet is a work in which the guitar takes no part.

Sphinx was premiered by the ELISION Ensemble at the Iwaki Auditorium, Melbourne on the 9th of August 2008, under the direction of Mark Knoop.

Score Sample (PDF)




percussion quartet (assorted instruments):

2002: 9 mins. 20 secs.


German: distanz = distance / tanz = dance.

dis = a prefix from the Latin variously implying separation / negation / deprivation / thoroughness.


Although DisTanz is typically quite precisely constructed it will, in some regards at least, be somewhat loosely realised. It is scored for an assortment of so-called un-pitched percussion that is perhaps more closely allied to an industrial sound world than any other.

It is predominantly a mixture of metals and woods [ranging from wood pieces to steel bowls and saw blades] that will of necessity vary with what is available and/or can be begged, borrowed, or bought. And although these instruments are [mostly] called for in fours, there is quite deliberately no master plan to dictate that, for example, Steel Bowl 1 is pitched between Bottles 1 & 2, and the result may differ widely from one performance to the next.

The ideal set-up calls for the performers to surround the audience. This is also flexible given conducting considerations and the physical limitations of any given venue, and will likewise influence any individual performance.

DisTanz was commissioned by SPEAK Percussion, and premiered by them on 23/2/2003 at the Richmond Town Hall, Melbourne.



string quartet.

2001 rev. 2011: 15 mins. approx.


proxima: Latin: from proximus = nearest, next, adjoining, close.


Proxima was premiered by the Silo String Quartet, at the Church of All Nations, Carlton on 21/02/2015, as part of the Arcko Symphonic Ensemble composer portrait concert "...Like a Maelstrom", and featured Aaron Barnden & Atilla Kuti (violins), Phoebe Green (viola) and Caerwen Martin (cello).

Score Sample (PDF)



oboe, vibraphone, guitar, viola.

2011/2018: 26 mins. approx.


By mid 2012, movements 1 and 4 had been completed, but a series of other projects (e.g. …like a Maelstrom : double concerto for piano, trumpet and small orchestra) kept me from finally completing Tortus until May 2018. For oboe, vibraphone, guitar, and viola, it is in six movements, of which …in Coils, Twist, Espiral, and Turn are eminently suitable for extraction and performance as separate works in their own right.


I. …in Coils.

oboe, viola.

2011: 4’30” approx.

“…the Drawling-master…taught us Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils.”

from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

“…Cogs and disks, inane mechanic whims,

And idle coils of jargon yet unspoken…”

from Sonnet : To Eva by Sylvia Plath.

II. Twist.

guitar, viola.

2018: 2’15” approx.

“...These waking dreams of life and death,  

In the mirror are twisted and buckled…

....I'd search out every knowledge that I could find,  

Unravel all the mysteries of mind,  

If I only had time...”

from Sleepwalkers by Peter Hammill.

III. Curve.

vibraphone, guitar, viola.  

2018: 1’00” approx.

“Given time we lead the lives we make.

The curve that we trace in time, a shape of our own design.”

from Given Time by Peter Hammill.

IV. Espiral.

oboe, vibraphone.  

2012: 7’45” approx.

(a) 2’00” approx. (b) 2’45” approx. (c) 3’00” approx.

espiral (Spanish) = spiral

“The spiral is a spiritualized circle. In the spiral form, the circle, uncoiled, unwound, has ceased to be vicious; it has been set free…”

from Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov.

V. Turn.

vibraphone, viola.

2018: 4’15” approx.

“Turn a card, turn a page,

the action sure to start, second-stage reaction

to illogical thoughts on random lines…

……Here we are, there we went, full circle…”

from Shell by Peter Hammill.

VI. Tortility.

oboe, vibraphone, guitar, viola.

2018: 6’15” approx.

(a) 2’00” approx. (b) 2’10” approx. (c) 2’05” approx.

tortile (adj): twisted or coiled.

tortility (noun).

from Latin : tortilis – winding, from tortus – twisted.



...only the living...

violin, 'cello, piano.

2000 rev. 2008. 11 mins. 30 secs. approx.


"...Time may finally prove,

only the living move her..."

                              from Lemmings, by Peter Hammill.


...only the living... is dedicated Brian (1925-83), Kathleen, (1927-87) and Michael (1952-87).

It was premiered by Michael Kieran Harvey (pno), Tim Veldman (vln), and Alister Barker (vc) on 24-9-2011 at the Trinity Uniting Church, Brighton.

 Score Sample (PDF)



...the principle of looking...

Bb bass clarinet, 5 octave marimba.

2008 rev. 2011: 11 mins. 30 secs.


"...all these constructions and the laws connecting them can be arrived at by the principle of looking for the mathematically simplest concepts and the link between them."

                                                                                              Albert Einstein.

Score Sample (PDF)



Figuration in Search of Identity

assorted percussion: Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Drum 'A' (2 Congas, 2 Djembes, 2 Bongos), Drum 'B' (Bass Drum, 6 Tom-toms, Snare drum), 6 Gongs, 6 Temple Blocks, 6 Wood Blocks, 5 Ceramic Bowls, 5 Glass Bottles, 5 Saw Blades, 5 Steel Bowls, 2 Temple Bowls, 2 Triangles, Ceramic Wind Chimes, Glass Wind Chimes.

2011: 27 mins. approx.


Figuration in Search of Identity takes its title from a 2005 work by the late Australian pre-eminent surrealist painter James Gleeson (1915-2008).

Figuration in Search of Identity is dedicated to Brenton Broadstock and Riccardo Formosa - my composition teachers in the 1980s - both significant influences in the early years of my personal musical explorations. Completed in 2011, it comprises nine movements and is about 27 minutes long.

Figuration in Search of Identity has several acceptable performance options:

1. with one soloist performing all 9 movements

When option 1 is employed, the instruments should be distributed in 2 main positions as follows:

A. Xylophone, Drum A, 6 Gongs, 6 Temple Blocks, 5 Ceramic Bowls, 2 Temple Bowls, 2 Triangles, Glass Wind Chimes, Ceramic Wind Chimes.

B. Glockenspiel, Drum B, 6 Wood Blocks, 5 Glass Bottles, 5 Steel Bowls, 5 Saw Blades.

with both positions requiring access to the Bass Drum.

2. with 2 soloists sharing workload, with performer 1 playing those movements built around Drum A / Xylophone set up (i.e. movts I, III, IV, VII, & VIII) and performer 2 playing those built around the Drum B / Glockenspiel set up (movts II, V, VI, & IX). In this option, it is appropriate that movement I be further shared, with performer 2 playing Bass Drum only.

3. with 4 soloists sharing workload, performer 1 (I, IV, & VII), performer 2 (Bass Drum in I, V, & IX), performer 3 (II & VI), and performer 4 (III & VIII).

If either option 2 or 3 is used:

the set up should naturally be varied to suit, and may necessitate additional instrumental resources for convenience.

consideration should be given to making full use of the available performance space by setting convenient subsets in positions other than directly in front of the audience.

4. It is also permissible to extract any movement - or sequence of movements - for performance in isolation as long as the movement(s) so treated are clearly identified as such.

Score Sample (PDF)




2009/2015: 27 mins. 40 secs. approx.


The handful of piano solos I'd written since (and including) the major revision of Agité III in 2000 were all - to a greater or lesser extent - related, and in 2010 I'd decided that four of them were sufficiently linked to combine quite well as a set, so the original Fracture came into being.

Over following months I became increasingly dissatisfied with this arbitrary construct, and in 2012 my thoughts turned again to the piano with a conviction to create a genuinely unified work. I chose  re-fract as the starting point and released the others to make their own way in the world. Later in 2012 Doublethink was completed, followed in 2015 by Shard : thus was Fracture in its present final form eventually (re)born.

All three works can be performed individually, or as part of the larger work.

i)   re-fract : 2009: 8 mins. 10 secs. approx.

ii)  Doublethink : 2012: 12 mins. 50 secs. approx.

iii) Shard : 2015: 6 mins. 40 secs. approx.


i) re-fract


2009: 8mins. 10 secs. approx.



re-: again, backward, intensify.

pref. [Middle English, from Old French, from Latin.]

fract: to break, to violate. [Obs]. Shak.

v.t. [L. fractus, p.p. of frangere to break.]

refract: to deflect from a straight path, to alter or distort

tr.v. [Latin refringere, to break up.]


"…to express the sensation of experiencing a disintegration of identity, a shattering of the self. This is what I mean when I speak of a poetics of refraction."

       from "The fragmentary Muse and the poetics of refraction in Sappho, Sophocles, Offenbach.

                                                                                           by Gregory Nagy 


re-fract can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the first of three movements in Fracture.

Score Sample (PDF)


ii) Doublethink


2012: 12 mins. 50 secs. approx.


“…the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, …to hold simultaneously two opinions…knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, …to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again...”

                                                          from 1984 by George Orwell (1903-1950).


"...The maelstrom of my memory is a vampire and it feeds on me;..."

                                        from A Plague of Lighthouse-keepers by Peter Hammill.


Doublethink can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the second of three movements in Fracture.

Score Sample (PDF)


iii) Shard


2015: 6 mins. 40 secs. approx.


"…trying to put the broken mirror of memory back together from so many broken shards."

from Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.


Shard can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the third of three movements in Fracture.

Score Sample (PDF)

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