Piano and percussion quartet

It has been just shy of 4 months since I last checked in here and looked at what I have been composing. So a couple of things have been completed in that time so this is more of a recap than an actual state of affairs.

The main project of the last 4 months has been my new quartet for piano and percussion, two of each! I try and write at least one chamber music work a year. There are a couple of reasons for this. Chamber music feels very natural for me, instruments directly in play with one another with nowhere to hide. I find I have a different approach to the music in the absence of the human voice and a text, so the notes come for a different reason, and this precipitates the final reason. Writing chamber music allows me to look directly to why I choose the notes I do to compose with, and why I work with them in the way I do. There is a different type of drama enacted in chamber music than in the more formalised theatre of the opera, and writing chamber music cultivates a different corner of my musical being.

The piece has ended up being written in two larger outer movements and a short interlude in the middle. It is on the whole very fast music, which always takes much longer to write than slow music. The piece is very economical in its use of percussion instruments, using 2 drums, triangle, cymbal and bells, as opposed to the collection of instruments in the Bartok Sonata, which my new piece is going to be programmed with on a few occasions.

The new work will premiere in the USA at Brigham Young University and then at Boise State University in Feb 2019, before going on to performances in Australia, Hong Kong and the UK through 2019.

After the quartet I started on the piece I am currently deep in the middle of, a 30 minute song cycle for Mark Padmore and the Britten Sinfonia. The piece is for tenor, string quartet and piano. It set’s a series of 10 poems by Australian poet Les Murray, from his most recent collection, On Bunyah.
The cycle charts a loose narrative and progression of themes, where the tenor can be identified as a 'poet farmer' character. This central figure gives voice to many aspects of Australia (the bush, land, kangaroos, fire, death, machinery and the 20/21st Century) without sentimentality. The distinctive Australian flavor of this collection of poems embraces the  similar experiences and challenges of other rural communities with the ‘poet farmer’ functioning as both a rural and modern day ‘every-man’.
It is my intention that beyond the first iteration of the cycle for Mark Padmore and quintet, that it will become a larger work for orchestra. In this enlarged version I plan to include two orchestral dances that take as their basis the Scotch-Irish traditional dances played in this specific area of N.S.W (i.e. Bunyah) and develop the many varied and diverse colours that are present within the text and the chamber ensemble version.

Luke Styles