Morris On!

Dear reader,

I realise with great trepidation that it has been some months since I have gathered together enough inspiration to compose something of any literary worth. Said hiatus was caused by an inundation of several projects and PhD work, but also by the lengthy ordeal of relocating away from the crazy cat man in the wee hours of the morning (to avoid detection) and now slowly recovering from the psychological trauma in a much, much nicer environment.

On the bright side, one of these projects I’ve finished was a fun new piece for a very eclectic mix: Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Jazz trio (Piano, Bass and Drums), and also Morris Dancers. It was commissioned especially for the ‘All In The Wash’ concert on 24th of May, (Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane, Australia) where it will be performed by the excellent musicians of Collusion and Trichotomy combined.

Without further, vital, ado, here’s the cover page of it:

Morris Title 22

I absolutely hate program notes. Well, a certain kind of program note … I’m sure I’ve ranted about it in the past before. But if I did write a more tolerable explanation of the piece (which admittedly is necessary in this case … I think I may subconsciously be making these pieces unusual to justify having program notes) it’d be this:

What’s the piece like? It’s very folk/Grainger affected music, on top of major jazz and rock considerations; changing moods frequently, but generally upbeat, cringe-worthy and danceable. The theme for the commission was ‘Morris Dancing,’ and there will be choreography in the concert, so it is constantly bouncing around in 4/4 until an intentional change occurs. I personally evaluated the Morris-ability of it using two ShamWows.


All the single morris dancers, put your hands up! Oh. That’s all of you. #causeandeffect

Grande Sonata Brillante? Yup, that’s the title. The intention was to directly clash with the expectations of the kind of person who’d go to see a piece called ‘Grande Sonata Brillante’ i.e.; a lush, romantic work for flamboyant piano virtuoso. Instead it’s a democratic chamber work for mixed genres and mediums, with the surreal Morris concept undermining it all. The cover is also intended to reflect this clash.

What’s with the two guys on the front cover? Storytime: They are from a photo taken last year in a French park. This park had a public “play me, I’m yours” piano (itself a curious topic) under a gazebo, and these two gentlemen spent at least an hour repetitively hacking and belting away at Beatles and Elton John hits. (I’ll elaborate as part of a separate post later- the piano hacking itself I have no aesthetic qualms with. For our present story’s purpose, it was the sheer domination of the poor piano for such an extensive period, while feeding off each other’s encouragement to create an unrelenting and deluded atmosphere of pseudo-pop-star-dom that is relevant.)

Anyway, eventually they were torn off the piano (by a family of small children I recall), and eventually my turn came around. The photo was taken while I was playing some Grainger, forever capturing the moment like the amber-mosquitos in Jurassic Park. I savour their interpretable expressions of disgruntlement, offended-ness, or as a friend remarked “as though they’d had their raison d’etre stolen away.” Which is also the kind of reaction I’m aiming for in the above fictional ‘Grande Sonata Brillante’-hoping audience.

Comic Sans? The use of Comic Sans is not a severe oversight on my behalf, though it did take a lot of deliberation. Whether tis nobler to have people amused at the overstated un-subtlety of it, or risk them silently assuming to themselves: “poor Philip, he mustn’t know much about design” and leaving large mounds of outrageous pity at my doorstep.

Anyway. That’s at least something for now – I’ve been wanting to do a post on public pianos in more detail for some time and shall do that next. But if anyone is in or near Brisbane, totes come to the concer… wait. Why did autocorrect accept ‘totes’ as a word? Oh, of course ‘to carry’. Totes around etc. Anyway, TOTES come to the concert in May!