Works for percussion (solo, duo, trio, quartet, & percussion + 1)
The palest light
2014 rev. 2021: 4 mins. approx.
“The light of memory, or rather the light that memory lends to things, is the
palest light of all…. I am not quite sure whether I am dreaming or
remembering, whether I have lived my life or dreamed it.”
Eugène Ionesco (1909 – 1994) Romanian playwright.
“What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.”
Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending
The palest light will ideally be performed in the least light possible, with stage lighting kept to the absolute minimum necessary for performance and with the audience in complete darkness.
The palest light is dedicated to Timothy Phillips, in appreciation of his vigorous and enduring support for Australian music. It was completed in 2014, revised in 2021, and is approximately 4 minutes long.
The palest light was premiered by Timothy Phillips, at the Church of All Nations, Carlton on 21/02/2015, as part of the Arcko Symphonic Ensemble composer portrait concert “…Like a Maelstrom”.
assorted percussion: 6 Tom-toms, Snare drum, 5 Tam-tams, 6 Temple Blocks.
2014: 4 mins. 30 secs. approx.
Tentative Calm takes its title from a work by the late Australian surrealist painter James Gleeson (1915-2008).
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.
…as the waves…
[3rd movement of Tortus or standalone work]
2007: 5 mins. 30 secs. approx.
…as the waves… can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the third of seven in the cycle The Eternal Surge.
“Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end,
Each changing place with that which goes before…”
from Sonnet 60, by William Shakespeare.
…as the waves… is dedicated to Peter Neville.
5 octave marimba.
[5th movement of Tortus or standalone work]
2002 rev. 2004: 7 mins. 15 secs.
Pro Tempore can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the fifth of seven in the cycle The Eternal Surge.
“…Since there is nothing but this moment, ‘for the time being’ is all the time there is.”
Dogen Zenji (1200-1253).
Pro Tempore (Latin: for the time being) had something of a complicated birth. It was originally written for 4 octave marimba, and comprised 4 sections with a flexible format that allowed its duration to range from 8 to 16 minutes. It was originally subtitled Provisional Solutions I-IV; the uncertainty implied by a ‘provisional pro tempore’ suggesting that even then the piece was a strong candidate for later revision.
This in fact proved to be the case. When Pedro Carneiro suggested creating a version for 5 octave marimba, the opportunity was taken to revise rather than arrange, the new final version being for 5 octave marimba, inflexible in format, and approximately 7’ 15″ long.
Pro Tempore is dedicated to Pedro Carneiro.
1998: 2 mins.
Akkord III was premiered by Peter Neville on 23/9/1999 at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, with its US premiere given by Michael Caterisano in New York in October 2005.
Agité II (transcription)
1995: 5 mins. 30 secs.
Agité II was originally commissioned as a mandolin solo by Stephen Morey. Upon Stephen’s retirement from performing in 1995, it was transcribed for vibraphone & premiered in that form by Peter Neville in Brisbane in 1999. Speak Percussion’s 2005 tour saw Peter give its European premiere in Barcelona, with follow up performances in Livorno, Trieste, Espinho, Porto, Oslo, and Copenhagen.
Agité II has also featured in solo recitals given throughout Spain by Sisco Aparici.
2 percussionists. (glockenspiel, xylophone)
[4th movement of The Eternal Surge or standalone work]
2010: 3 mins. approx.
…tempus fugit…can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the fourth of seven in the cycle The Eternal Surge.
“Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore.”
(But meanwhile it flees: time flees irretrievably, while we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail).
from Georgics, by Virgil.
2 percussionists (xylophone, vibraphone)
[6th movement of Tortus or standalone work]
2006: 3 mins. approx.
Clash can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the sixth of seven in the cycle The Eternal Surge.
“Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.”
from Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, by Dylan Thomas.
Clash is dedicated to Eugene Ughetti & Matthias Schack-Arnott.
It was premiered by SPEAK Percussion on 18-9-2010 at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
2 percussionists (vibraphone, marimba)
[2nd movement of The Eternal Surge or standalone work]
2004: 5 mins.
PNEUma can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the second of seven in the cycle The Eternal Surge.
pneuma: n. The soul or vital spirit, psyche, ego, mind, self.
PNEUma was written for SPEAK Percussion, and is dedicated to Peter Neville and Eugene Ughetti.
It was premiered by SPEAK Percussion at the Incinerator Arts Complex as part of the Big West Festival in Melbourne on 24/11/2007, with its first European performance by Pedro Carneiro and Mario Teixeira in Tomar (Portugal) in June 2009.
But I repeat myself
3 percussionists (small bass drum or floor tom, 10 concert tom-toms, snare drum)
2014: 4 mins. 30 secs.
“Pounding out rhythms on a drum set is for morons, isn’t it? Actually, it’s no more moronic than any other human activity; it may be rendered moronic by moronic drummers in the same way that politics may be rendered moronic by moronic politicians.”
“Suppose you were an idiot,
and suppose you were a member of Congress;
but I repeat myself.”
4 percussionists (glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba)
2019: 6 mins. 30 secs.
percussion quartet (assorted instruments)
2011: 9 mins. approx.
InQuietude was premiered as part of the Melbourne Composers’ League concert Four Colours: Gold, presented at Trinity Uniting Church, Black St. Brighton in November 2013, & featuring percussionists Peter Neville, Dan Richardson, Timothy Phillips and Steve Falk, under the direction of Johanna Selleck.
The Eternal Surge
keyboard percussion quartet (glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba).
2000-2010: 30 mins. approx.
“How little do we know that which we are!
How less what we may be!
The eternal surge of time and tide rolls on,
and bears afar our bubbles:
as the old burst, new emerge,
Lash’d from the foam of ages;
while the graves of empires heave
but like some passing waves.”
from Don Juan (Canto XV), by Lord Byron.
“Let’s go down to where it’s clean
To see what time it might have been
The tides have carried off the beach
As you said
The sun is out of reach”
from As You Said, by Jack Bruce & Pete Brown.
All works can be performed individually, or as part of the larger work.
For more detail, see dedicated page
(i) Ebb. glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba. 2007: 2 mins. 45 secs. approx.
(ii) PNEUma. vibraphone, marimba. 2004 rev. 2008: 5 mins. approx.
(iii) …as the waves… solo vibraphone. 2007: 5 mins. 30 secs. approx.|
(iv) …tempus fugit… glockenspiel, xylophone. 2010: 3 mins. approx.
(v) Pro Tempore. 5-octave marimba. 2002 rev. 2004: 7 mins. 30 secs. approx.
(vi) Clash. xylophone, vibraphone. 2006: 3 mins. approx.
(vii) Cogs. glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba. 2000: 3 mins. 15 secs. approx.
4 percussionists (glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba)
[1st movement of Tortus or standalone work]
2007: 2 mins. 45 secs.
Ebb can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the first of seven in the cycle The Eternal Surge.
“Most men ebb and flow in wretchedness between the fear of death and the hardship of life; they are unwilling to live, and yet they do not know how to die.”
Seneca (Roman philosopher, 1st century AD)
Ebb was premiered by SPEAK Percussion on 18-9-2010 at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
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.
4 percussionists. (glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba)
[7th movement of Tortus or standalone work]
2000: 3 mins. 15 secs.
Cogs can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the seventh of seven in the cycle The Eternal Surge.
“We measure time according to the movement of countless suns;
and they measure time by little machines in their little pockets.”
from Sand and Foam, by Kahlil Gibran.
“Just a little bit.
Just a little bit more time.
Time left to live out my life.”
from The Musical Box, by Genesis. (Banks, Collins, Gabriel, Hackett, Rutherford)
Cogs is dedicated to Peter Neville, in gratitude for his talent, patience and support.
It was premiered by SPEAK Percussion on 1-12-2000 at the Bennett’s Lane Jazz Lab, in Melbourne.
Percussion + 1
xylophone + piano.
[2nd movement of Extrication or standalone work]
2021: 2 mins. 15 secs. approx.
…of two minds…
glockenspiel + guitar.
2008 rev. 2019 : 5 mins. 30 secs. approx.
…of two minds… started life as a duo for alto flute and guitar, and was premiered in that form by Carla Rees and David Black at All Saints Church, Oakleigh Park, London on 23/3/2009. I was however, never completely satisfied with the work, and decided in 2019 that it would be more worthwhile if recast for glockenspiel and guitar.
vibraphone + viola.
[5th movement of Tortus or standalone work]
2018: 5 mins. approx.
glockenspiel + piano.
[1st movement of Extrication or standalone work]
2017: 5 mins. approx.
“The sinuosity of my thought depends on the exterior conditions in which I find myself, on perceptible experiences which modify me, and finally on the law of association of ideas which does not force me to fix my thought, nor to cause it to turn in a circle, nor to make it follow a straight line…”
from The Metamorphoses of the Circle by Georges Poulet. (translation: Carley Dawson & Elliot Coleman in collaboration with the author)
Sinuosity was completed in 2017 and has a duration of approximately 5¼ minutes. It can be performed either as a standalone work or as the first movement of Extrication (2014-2021: for piano, glock/xyl, vibes = Sinuosity + InDecision + Alter(n)ations + …this certainty…).
vibes + piano.
[3rd movement of Extrication or standalone work]
2006 rev. 2014: 6 mins. 15 secs. approx.
Alter(n)ations started out in 2006 as a trio for vibraphone, piano and harpsichord that was programmed for the debut concert of the Montreal-based ensemble ‘Contemporary Keyboard Society’. The concert duly went ahead, but the premiere of Alter(n)ations was deferred on ‘workload grounds’ and later, on the departure of the percussionist from the group, suspended indefinitely.
I thought the material deserved better and some years later opted to recast it for piano and vibraphone. Finally (re)completed in October 2014, Alter(n)ations has a duration of approximately 6½ minutes, and can be performed either as a standalone work or as the third movement of Extrication (2014-2021: for piano, glock/xyl, vibes = Sinuosity + InDecision + Alter(n)ations + …this certainty…)
vibes + oboe.
[4th movement of Tortus or standalone work]
2012: 7 mins. 45 secs. approx.
(a) 2’00” approx. (b) 2’45” approx. (c) 3’00” approx.
Espiral can be performed either as a standalone work, or as the fourth of six in Tortus.
“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.
Espiral was completed in April 2012, and is approx. 7 3/4 mins. long.
…the principle of looking…
5 octave marimba + Bb bass clarinet.
2008 rev. 2021: 9 mins. 15 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.”
vibraphone + flute.
2007: 3 mins. 10 secs.
percussion + Bb bass clarinet.
1998 rev. 2000: 6 mins.
Slap is a short work of about 6 ½ minutes duration that rather obviously takes its title from the opening slap tongue of the bass clarinet, but also observes that slap is one of those words that turns up in many other combinations e.g. slap-bang, slap-stick, slap-up, slap in the face, and slap and tickle to name a few. The sense of some of these other terms has doubtless found its way into this piece, (hopefully not slap-dash).
Slap was written for Duo Contemporain, and is dedicated to Henri Bok and Miguel Bernat.
It was premiered by Duo Contemporain at the Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth on 9/5/2000, and underwent minor revision thereafter.