Orchestral works next season

Looking ahead to the next season, two of my orchestral works referencing aspects of Australian Aboriginal culture will have performances in locations quite far removed from those origins. Pearl, Ochre, Hair String (2010) will be presented on 17 March 2012 by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Otto Tausk at Glasgow City Halls as part of BBC Hear and Now.  Bayern-Alpha tv with Peider Defilla made a documentary film about the premiere by the Bavarian Radio Orchestra in Munich last July 2010.

The Compass (2006) will be performed on 2, 3 & 4 July 2012 by the Städtisches Orchester Bremerhaven conducted by Stephan Teztlaff with soloists Carin Levine (flute) and William Barton (didgeridoo), and is also  programmed in the 2012-13 season of the Orchestre National de Lille conducted by Philippe Danel (making that the 16th performance of the work).

The Compass has been heard live in Sydney, Munich, Venice, Paris, Verona, Modena, Rome, Turin, Naples, Merano, then next in Bremerhaven and Lille.  Pearl, Ochre, Hair String has been presented in Munich, Perth and next in Glasgow. I’ve been reflecting on aspects of ‘reception history’, that is, how an audience’s cultural background and life experiences provide frameworks that shape their interpretation of a work’s meaning or informs the degree of resonance that is created in an encounter with new work. I wonder what it means that the location where both of these orchestral works have been perhaps most warmly received, has been in Munich.

Bavarian Radio Orchestra - The Compass, Munich Jan 2007 (photo by Astrid Ackermann)


‘The Guest’ broadcast

I attend a low-key yoga class at a local church hall in Manchester. The teacher likes to recite poems during the final Savasana (relaxation pose) as a way of giving some inspiration and yesterday chose a poem by Rumi. It talks about welcoming and accepting any aspect of the human condition, even the seemingly dark and mean sides. Lying on the ground appears simple but many things rise up to one’s awareness when in this posture and it’s quite challenging to bring a spacious attention both to things that are attractive and those that feel repellent. When one stops applying the usual framework for judging and interpreting for a little moment, life can seem very vivid.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

~ Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi (13th century) ~

(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

ABC-Classic FM Radio in Australia are broadcasting a series of concerts from last year’s edition of the Donaueschinger Musiktage.  The Guest, a ‘concerto for orchestra and recorder’, that I wrote for Jeremias Schwarzer and the SWR Orchestra conducted by Rupert Huber can be heard online via their website.

Gift and Angels: premieres in Munich in September

I have a couple of premieres in Munich coming up in September. On September 4, my oboe solo Gyfu (gift) will be played by six contestants in the semi-final round of the ARD Musikwettbewerb. This is the 60th anniversary of one of the big competitions for classical musicians, and the Bavarian Radio commissioned the oboe solo for this edition. Other composers commissioned are Naji Hakim (organ), Mark Andre (trumpet) and Lera Auerbach (piano). They change the categories every year and it’s pretty interesting looking at the roll call of previous prizewinners – Heinz Holliger was the winner of the first oboe prize in 1961.

*Update: 8 Sept 2011.  It was quite extraordinary to have this premiere of my work in ‘six versions’  in Munich, each musician presenting a strikingly different interpretation.  Oboist Philippe Tondre gave a particularly rich and detailed account and was awarded the ‘prize for interpretation of contemporary work’.  I also really enjoyed Viola Wilmsen’s performance which was bold and impassioned, as well as Ivan Podyomov’s whose version had a distinctly non-Western air.  Here’s a review: ARD Competition Semi-Final

music of fluctuating tatters…

On September 25, the recently completed
3 Angels, 3 intertwining songs for soprano, mezzo and bass, gets its first outing at the Pinakothek der Moderne performed by members of the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart.  This is part of Escalier du Chant, an installation work taking place over 12 months devised by the conceptual artist Olaf Nicolai.  The work is conceived as a series of architectural interventions involving ‘songs’ commissioned from 12 composers that reflect on current political events.  It certainly was a challenge to decide on the ‘political subject’ which I think of as very tricky territory. Of course there’s no end of things to critique or draw attention to when it comes to issues of violations of human rights, ecological disasters, miscarriages of justice, government and corporate corruption, not to mention the personal-political tragedies that pass unnoticed by the press.

But having a political theme as the subject of an artwork is not necessarily synonymous with the work itself being ‘political’ in terms of how it impacts on a wider consciousness.   Continue reading

All the Hemispheres (Hafez)

a favourite poem by Hafez…

All the Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of

From: ‘The Subject Tonight is Love’ . Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Whirling dervishes seen over the rooftops of Istanbul, July 2011

Sonorous Body on Hat Hut CD

‘Sonorous Body’, a composition that is brought to life by the wild adventures of the solo clarinet. Physiology meets soul and tone meets color as the piece ends in consummate splendorRaul D’Gama Rose, All About Jazz

‘Wild adventures of the solo clarinet’ – I like to think of instruments as personages in some way – characters with an inner life that cannot be completely tamed by either composer or performer.  Try as we might, sometimes that wildness just comes through in an uncontrolled squawk in concert or in an inexplicable silence that just appears in the score as one is writing.

Sonorous Body, my work from 2008 for solo clarinet has been released by Hat Hut Records on a compilation disc. This is the second disc of mine with both Hat Hut and the Ensemble für neue musik Zürich who released a portrait disc The Heart’s Ear [Hat(now) Art 148] in 2002. Sonorous Body was written as part of the installation work TON and also refers to some aspects of my opera The Navigator. The piece might be described as an experience of shifting perspectives between a far horizon and an intimate nearness.

The title comes from part of Patricia Sykes’ libretto for The Navigator: ‘Horizon and water/could never be lovers/ horizon adores only distance / sonorous water/ searching for its sonorous body.’  The clarinettist Manfred Spitaler gives a wonderfully textured and nuanced account.

Women Composers I, Hat(now) Art 164. works by Katharina Rosenberger, Ada Gentile, Carmen Maria Cârneci, Liza Lim and Noriko Hisada.  Ensemble für neue musik Zürich.


Welcome to my website (still a ‘work-in-progress’).  The menu organises listings of my compositional work by genre and the active links from titles will take you to further information such as programme notes, interviews, score excerpts as well as audio and video examples.

My work has been published by the Casa Ricordi group since 1990: Ricordi Milano (1990-2003), Ricordi London (2004-08), Ricordi Munich (2009-present) all of whom are part of the Universal Music Publishing Group.  Scores, recordings and further information can be obtained from the following:

Ricordi Munich, mzwenzner@ricordi.de

Ricordi London, elaine.mitchener@umusic.com

Ricordi Milano, annamaria.macchi@umusic.com

Boosey & Hawkes New York, silke.hilger@umusic.com

Australian Music Centre

I have also made a number of collaborative installation-based works with artists such as Domenico de Clario, Judith Wright, Judy Watson, Sabrina Hoelzer with Volker Maerz, and Olaf Nicolai. These projects often involved improvisation, text and graphic scores or pieces in non-western calligraphic notation.  There is some documentation and information about these works in Other Projects.