Rush originally started out as a study for the right hand thumb. The piece opens in five with a darting, weaving bass melody and harmonic language similar to the Cuban feel of Leo Brouwer’s first study. As the piece progresses, I played around with some poly-rhythms and syncopations in 3/4 time with a Venezuelan flavour similar to the music of Antonio Lauro.
The title Metropolis was created, like many of my pieces, retrospectively. It was suggested to me by Mark Eden and resonated with much of what I felt the piece conveyed, essentially the non-stop hustle and bustle of a musical “city” where influences combine from many different ages and musical cultures. The initial ideas for the piece came from trying to formulate a study for the left hand where the 4th finger jumps from the first string to the lower bass strings. As is often the case, on finishing the piece I now hear many things which although not used consciously, have emerged in the music to remind me of music I have listened to or studied in the past.
At various points a musical quote taken from the end of the first movement of La Catedral by the Paraguayan guitarist and composer Agustin Barrios Mangore appears, which I have syncopated and used as a musical junction, with the music taking a different direction each time it appears.
Towards the end of the piece the performer combines left hand hammered chords with right hand finger clicks and tamboura, creating a visual juggling effect when performed. Something resembling the sound of a siren can then be discerned before the piece moves into the closing E major section. I did most of the work for the final version of this piece in the autumn of 2005, just after the birth of my second daughter!
I think the music reflects something of the pace of my life around then!
Birds Flew Over The Spire is a short, lyrical piece which was also partly intended as a study to explore various ways in which the left hand can form the same harmonic shapes around the fingerboard. I am not keen on the title “study” however, as it often seems to stifle the imagination and perpetuate the myth that somehow technique is detached from music making. I prefer to think of an image which conveys the essence of the music. A classic English scene in late summer is that of swallows flying around a country church spire. I have also always loved watching birds float on thermals, warm currents of air rising from the ground. It struck me that the phrasing and shapes and patterns of movement in the left hand should be similar to a bird arcing and floating on a thermal, hence the title.