Program notes

Suspended Preludes for double bass and piano, opus 49 (1993)

  1. 1. Resonate
  2. 2. To sleep
  3. 3. Piano drum
  4. 4. ‘Rocks in slow flight’
  5. 5. Ground
  6. 6. Gravity
  7. 7. Trans

The following program note is by Gordon Kalton Williams, and may be used with acknowledgment.

From 1993, Suspended Preludes makes great use of diverse sound sources, given the limited instrumentation, double bass and piano. The work, dedicated to Belinda Webster, was commissioned by Tall Poppies and the Australia Council, and first performed by Steve Reeves (who edited the double bass part) and Roland Peelman at the University of Wollongong in November 1993.

The first of the preludes, Resonate, fulfils the function of an introduction. Double bass chords played pizzicato with three fingers combine with strumming from ‘bottom to top’. The piano is instructed to release the pedal on its last chord ‘very slowly’. At the beginning of To sleep, the piano is instructed to wedge a piece of rubber between B and C. The double bass, playing arco, builds up a form of sighing, punctuated with pizzicato on the open strings E and A (the bass’s tuning is a tone above orchestral tuning). The end is articulated with glassy wide-leaping piano notes. The somnolent mood is broken with very vigorous tapping on or inside the piano (Piano drum).

We are then into a very passionate alternation of dissonant seventh and ninth chords which breaks into arpeggiated versions (‘Rocks in slow flight’ – a phrase from a poem by David Malouf), before being ‘grounded’ in prelude 5. The sixth prelude is called Gravity (one would think ironically given the tempo instruction ‘very fast and crisp’) but the instruments struggle to escape the earth-boundedness of ostinato. The work returns to the contemplativeness of earlier moments in Trans, before finishing with ‘joyous’ strokes.

Note by Gordon Kalton Williams, © 2014.