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2011 prize winners:
First – Eva Li for Faith
Second – Alex Taylor for Deepwalker
Third – Sean Scanlen for Her hand Softly Touches the Walls of the World
This piece is inspired by Toru Takemitsu’s Rain Spell. I was drawn to the notational system he used in his piece which allows the musical material to be very free. The concept of Ubiquitous Grey is based upon the tumultuous sky. On one particular day I noticed the sky was very unusual. The clouds were very low and I could see them moving at great speed. The sky was completely bleak, very grey. When I looked to the horizon, I was amazed to see layer upon layer of shades of grey. I also found it interesting at that moment that the idea that certain events can trigger us to take an increased notice of our surroundings and perhaps cause us to create reasons as to why things appear the way they do. We notice things we wouldn’t usually notice when these events occur and deeply observe the world around us.
Tianyi Lu (conductor), Ella Tunnicliffe-Glass (flute), Alex Taylor (tenor saxophone), Laura Pendergrast (trumpet), Lilla Dittrich (horn), Ann Kim (cello), Darija Andjelic-Andzakovic (double bass), Paul Robertson (vibraphone). (13′28″)
This work for clarinet quintet in three movements was written following time spent in the north of Scotland, during which I visited the remote and desolate places that my family left behind when they emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand in the 19th century. Although the music is not intended to be strictly descriptive, the image underpinning the work is that of an infinite shore that stretches from the line of steep cliffs at Badbea overlooking the North Sea, around the world to the rocky southern shores of Aotearoa New Zealand. The work draws on the tonal colour and extremes of pitch that are possible in the clarinet, and the extraordinary platform of sound of the string quartet. This first movement is 9 minutes in duration.
M Louise Webster
Julia Cornfield (clarinet), Alex Taylor, Emily Bouwhuis (violin), Alex MacDonald (viola), Rachel Wells (cello) (10′44″)
Her Hand Softly Touches the Walls of the World is the product of a collaboration between Celeste Oram (performer), Kineret Yardena (poet) and Sean Scanlen (composer). It is a musical exploration of the last moments of a life, presented as a series of experiences and memories. Celeste’s abilities as a flautist and singer inspired a great deal of experimentation with extended techniques such as the simultaneous use of speaking and playing. There is a gradual transition from voice to flute throughout the piece, reflecting the transition from one world to another.
Celeste Oram (vocalising flute) (7′39″)
I used a twelve tone row as the basis of this trio: F, C#, G, C natural, Ab, Bb, B natural, E, A, Eb, D, and F#. In Movement I, it is used as the subject on violin, then transposed into its dominant on flute as the counter subject and the answer. Then it repeats on its original pitch on cello, thus, making it a fugue. It is a sad piece especially for the use of plaintive downward melodies to create such mood and it is dedicated to Gloria Stuart, an iconic 30s star who passed away aged 100, a few days before I started work on Trio Gloria. Movement IV is a canon based on a one line melody with its inversion and upside down, to create a contrasting polyphony texture and chaos effect. The texts are taken from Psalm 130 and Psalm 23, both have been traditionally used for requiems.
Oliver Huang Xu
Kieran Deane-Alder (countertenor), Ella Tunnicliffe-Glass (flute), Natasha Manowitz (violin), Michael Weiss (cello). (5′58″)
“Plenty out of pain, life out of death,” – Anonymous (In the Hour of Silence)
Pre-recorded audio (10′25″)
The Shingle Nile is based on a song I wrote while driving to Hamilton. It looks at the fear of driving in Auckland traffic. This was my first attempt to blend my songwriting with orchestral arrangement, as they have been kept separate up to this point. I was also interested in using a viola-dominated ensemble to explore the sonorities of this instrument.
Hannah Bright, Rachel Grimwood, Crystal Lin, Alex MacDonald, Cameron Stuart, Michael Weiss, Eric Scholes (2′59″)
I wrote this piece especially to perform in concerts of the “Project Chiyo-Ni”. Kazu Nakagawa, a NZ-Japanese contemporary artist/sculptor founded the project in order to support the emotional and spiritual recovery of the people who suffered in the recent Japan earthquake: for them to gain the strength to confront what lies ahead. A large portion of this piece is devoted to expressing and evoking the soundscape of the tragedy, as one of the essential concepts of the project is ‘to think of those in Japan’. Water sounds were also adopted as the symbol of treatment or healing. It uses a Microsoft XBOX Kinect sensor, which provides full-body 3D motion capture for movement detections and gesture recognitions. The data sent from Kinect is used to trigger and control organic and artificial sounds in real-time. The interaction between body movements and technology may be perceived intuitively.
Motion capture triggered audio (6′49″)
Suite for solo cello was written earlier this year specifically to be performed by Rachel Wells, the piece is a dedication to her. The four-movement, lyrical work was conceived in an improvisatory fashion based on four mindstates: focused confidence, indifference, passion, and epiphanic resolve. These mind states need not be the focus of the listener however, but rather one should keep in mind the gravity between adjacent notes. It is predominantly the exploration of this gravity that is intended to inspire the aforementioned affects. Aside from this consideration the piece is not programmatic in nature and should be interpreted by the listener however he or she deems fit.
Rachel Wells (cello) (9′17″)
Text from Haiku for Lovers compiled by Manu Bazzano.
Graffiti of Love uses serial and pointillist compositional devices to help achieve the effect I wished to create in this set of small pieces for piano and soprano voice. The piano acts a bit like a canvas of sound in which the short haiku poems are framed. A human voice against a bleak musical landscape, much like the colourful graffiti we see on stark concrete walls. Through the music and text in Graffiti of Love, I hope to evoke the same humour and emotion expressed by graffiti written about our everyday human life.
Hannah Bryant (soprano), Canwei Li (piano) (4′53″)
Desertflower is a programmatic piece based in the Thar Desert, a place where the music of India and Pakistan blends together. The work begins with the sun setting in this wilderness - for this I used the marva mode, the main mode for evening ragas in India. A festival then begins during the second movement, depicted through frenzied tutti playing, mock improvisational solos and the entry of several percussion instruments. The travellers of this scene lastly end the night by putting out the camp fires, portrayed with a return of a marvaesque mode and a reduction of texture and tempo. This last movement, called ‘Fires Out,’ is performed here.
Elisabeth Lau (conductor), Rachel Grimwood (viola), Ann Kim, Grace Neal (cello), Caitlin Abbot (piano), Matt Kofoed (percussion), Joel Holmes-Marler (triangle), Manjit Singh (tabla) (5′55″)
(Warning: contains coarse language)
In many ways this is a companion piece to an earlier work, Vivid for solo trumpet, which also sets a powerful, sexually charged poem by Will Christie. But where Vivid is very often overtly violent and forceful in its gestures, Deepwalker is mostly much subtler, almost passive-aggressive in outlook. The opening lines of the poem - “the day is a drum that connects these vocal loops with grey traffic circles bridge after bridge” - are mirrored in the cyclical, sometimes elliptical form of the work, loops and circles that play between registers of the clarinet. Sexual tension and aggression bubble away in the background, periodically rupturing the musical surface with piercing, angular outbursts, sometimes in parallel with the rather tender, fluid lines of the low register, and with the spoken text itself. This violent interplay creates a kind of disordered internal conversation, a bizarre hermetic character opening and shutting her windows; a clarinet of many voices.
Natalie Harris (Bb clarinet) (10′27″)
This piece explores the stunning dynamic range of the trumpet, showing the extreme contrasts of emotion that can emanate from this instrument. Throughout this piece I wanted to show off what I believe the trumpet to be best at; soulful and emotive gestures, and brash, highly rhythmic punctuations. The Meek and the Ruthless was commissioned by Brent Grapes, a performer in the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra.
Brent Grapes (trumpet) (5′17″)
This piece revolves around a central repetitive stanza form and melody, together with the image of a sombre march. It explores some atonal chords as well as traditional 5-limit harmony alongside the counterpoint of silence and speech.
Jordan Buckley, Zachary Fraser-Baxter, Eddie Kim, Peter Sorrenson, Dylan Snow, Cam Taylor (voice) (4′43″)
Performances from the University of Auckland's Lilburn Composition Prize concert
The University of Auckland Lilburn Composition Prize held annually and is open to University of Auckland School of Music composition students. All the submitted compositions were performed at this concert.
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