Graeme Downes: Introduction and Scherzo

“I composed Introduction and Scherzo over two weekends in August 2011 and later redrafted it in line with Helen’s technical advice. As is often the case, I used the techniques that were currently of interest to me from areas of study, namely the polyrhythmic freedom of Brahms (admittedly not a noted harp composer) and variants on a pitch class set that was a staple of 19th century composers. Ironically (depending on which pitches are employed and which avoided at any one time), the set can produce music that variously sounds like late Liszt, Shostakovich or alternatively rather bluesy. My piece is a little irreverent in this regard perhaps and represents an experiment to see whether stylistic “impurity” can be mitigated by underlying unity. In looking for idiomatic harp figuration (it’s been a while since I wrote for one) I referenced Debussy just a little.”
Graeme Downes is currently HoD of the Department of Music at the University of Otago. He completed his PhD on the music of Mahler and nineteenth century symphonic antecedents in 1993. He has a thirty-year career as a songwriter and performer in the rock band the Verlaines and as a solo performer. He trained as a “classical” composer under Jack Speirs, but being addicted to tonality and poetry, has stuck mainly to a career in rock, increasingly regarding composition as composition regardless of the medium or genre. He teaches song writing and musicology. He regularly contributes pre-concert lectures for the NZSO and Southern Sinfonia on the music of Mahler, Shostakovich and others. He is also, from time to time, a freelance musicologist in the area of copyright disputes.

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