STARING INTO THE ABYSS

Commissioned by the excellent Charlie Barber.

The only piano piece I’ve ever written. Spanish Baroque shades into boogie-woogie.

 

Demo and score available on request

DEAD WHITE EUROPEAN MALE

Commissioned by Charlie Barber for a Beethoven-fest.

It’s an arrangement – no it’s not it’s a version - of the slow movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, one of my favourite pieces.

 

Listen to the music

Score available on request

 

MALOUF

Commissioned by Charlie Barber.

A product of my interest in music of the Maghreb.

 

Demo and score available on request

 

MUNGO DANCES

For string ensemble

Commissioned by Opus 20 and Scott Stroman

 

In 1795 the Scottish explorer Mungo Park travelled down the River Niger, crossed the Senegal Basin, and was imprisoned by the Arabs. He escaped and reyurned to Scotland, where he wrote an account of his travels and suffered acutely from boredom. In 1805 he resumed his exploration with generous government support. The expedition was attacked by Africans and Park drowned. He was, as they say in the papers, 35 years old.

 

Demo and score available on request

 

PLAY

For baritone and string quartet.

Commissioned by the singer Nigel Cliffe.

The lyrics are poems by Vasco Popa from his fierce surreal sequence Games.

 

Before Play

You close one eye

You peer into yourself look in all the corners

Make sure there are no nails no thieves

No cuckoo’s eggs

 

Then you close your other eye as well

You crouch then jump

You jump as high as high as high

Right up to the top of yourself

 

Then your weight drags you down

You fall for days as deep as deep as deep

Down to the bottom of your abyss

 

If you’re not smashed to bits

If you’re still in one piece and get up in one piece

Then you can play

 

Score available on request

 

BIRDS ON FIRE

An extension of the music for Second Stride’s Badenheim, written for the marvellous viol consort Fretwork.

 

The piece appears on the Fretwork CD Birds on Fire

 

In Aharon Appelfeld's wonderful novel Badenheim 1939, a group of middle-class Jews gather in an Austrian holiday resort for their summer holidays. As they enjoy the gentle pleasures of the resort, organised by the local impressario Dr. Pappenheim, and settle into their old friendships and enmities, the town gradually, almost unnoticeably, becomes a ghetto. They persuade themselves that the sinister changes are improvements and continue their holiday amusements as the town closes in. Summer turns to autumn; life becomes very hard. The food runs out and they are reduced to eating indigestible delicacies from the hotel stores. And at this desperate stage, they begin to take pride in their Jewishness. The band plays Jewish tunes secretly at night. A pair of twins give a reading – ‘their words were like birds on fire’. The book ends as a train arrives to take them away. ‘Because the carriages are so dirty,’ says Dr. Pappenheim, ‘it must mean we haven't far to go.’

 

My mental picture of Birds on Fire is of a group of musicians daring to play Jewish tunes at night in a small hotel room. The piece is based on two klezmer tunes: Kandel's Hora and Odessa Bulgarish.

Score available on request

 

LA BELLA GIGUGIN

 

Commissioned by Francis Kyle for a group show at his gallery looking at Giuseppe de Lampedusa’s great (and only) novel The Leopard.

Written for the singer Melanie Pappenheim.

 

The novel set in the mid-nineteenth century, and tells the story of the death throes of an aristocratic Sicilian dynasty, caused partly by its own passivity and corruption, and partly by Garibaldi’s Risorgimento. The book is a meditation on love, death and the passing of time; the mood is melancholic, nostalgic.

Di quindici anni facevo l’amore

Dàghela avanti un passo

Delizio del mio cuore

 

Di sedici anni ho presso marito

Dàghela avanti un passo

Delizio del mio cuore

 

Di didiassette mi sono spartìta

Dàghela avanti un passo

Delizio del mio cuore

 

At fifteen years old I was in love

Take a step forward

My heart’s delight

 

At sixteen I took a husband

Take a step forward

My heart’s delight

 

At seventeen we parted

Take a step forward

My heart’s delight

 

*

 

Che mi chiamma guerriggiar

Io vado a guerriggiar

Contento a guerriggiar

 

They’re calling me to war

I’m going to make war

What happiness, to make war

 

*

 

Ho settantré anni al’ingresso ne avrò vissuto, veramente vissuto, un totale di due... tre al massimo.

 

I am seventy-three years old, and all in all I may have lived, really lived, a total of two, three at the most.

 

*

 

Score available on request

ALLIGATOR

Written for Clare McCaldin.

Lyrics by Tamsin Collison.

 

‘It has come to my notice that some people have been keeping alligators as pets. They’re very faithful and devoted apparently. The trouble is, the owners become alarmed as the little darlings start to grow up, and flush them down the loo. Tsk tsk. An alligator is for life, not just for Christmas.

The poor discarded pets arrive in the sewers, and, with plenty of excellent food around, grow to vast sizes, marauding through the tunnels, and terrorising the unfortunate sewage workers. Recruitment is becoming a problem I gather.

So I wasn’t particularly surprised when on the way here today I walked on to the eastbound platform of the Piccadilly Line at Gloucester Road to be confronted by the biggest alligator I had ever seen (oh alright, the only alligator I had ever seen) emerging from the tunnel.

So I jumped on its back and off we went.......’

 

Demo and score available on request