I was honoured when Timothy and Hilary Reynish commissioned me to compose a second piece in memory of their son William. I intended it as a contrast to L’homme armé: Variations – perhaps more contemplative and personal. It was written for the Ithaca College Wind Ensemble who gave the premiere under Dr Reynish’s direction in Ithaca, New York on April 27, 2006.
That piece was Resonance. In 2013 I undertook an extensive revision, and in order to avoid confusion between two versions I called the new piece Resonances. This piece replaces the earlier version.
Resonances is divided into two main sections. The first uses thematic fragments arranged in their own ‘orbits’. At each appearance they interact with each other and evolve. The second section moves back in time to reveal the theme from which the fragments originated, a simple hymn-like tune. After three variations, material from both sections combines in a brief, atmospheric coda.
The Philharmonia à Vent of Terre Haute Indiana under Roby George gave the premiere of Resonances on October 8, 2013.
Resonances is abstract music; there is no programme. However prior to and during the composition process, fleeting, disconnected images and events from New Zealand’s history kept coming to mind. Here are some of them:
- Throughout the nineteenth century – waves of English settlers, amongst them missionaries intent on rapid conversion of the Maori population.
- The time of the Maori prophets, their writings a vivid amalgam of Victorian Christianity and Polynesian warrior culture – the upheaval of colonization –war and dispossession.
- Mission schools built in clearings in the forest – in contemporary accounts, the volume of birdsong so intense that lessons sometimes had to be abandoned.
- The exquisite sound of a solitary kokako or korimako (bellbird) in the forest – a pale echo of the past.
- The Maori belief that the voices of the ancestors are heard as birdsong.
- My own ancestor in a small mission school in the forest – his attention drifting from the faces of his young students to memories of his own youth back in rural England.
Vaia’ata Print (self-published)