The inspiration for the White Book series came, in part, from my love of Couperin’s Ordres for harpsichord, as well as the piano preludes of Debussy. Both composers used the keyboard as a vehicle to express the multi-faceted nature of life. The series is ongoing, and the third book – which will be for harpsichord – has been commissioned to be written in 2014.
White Book 1 has something of the journey about it. The music departs from a central harmonic area in the first piece, and although it criss-crosses in and out of this harmony as the set unfolds it’s only with the last work that a sense of arrival is reached. The overall effect is somewhat like a Persian carpet, or a mosaic, with small linear motifs and tiny fragments of colour jostling together to create larger decorative patterns.
The opening piece of book 1 is free flowing, and partly inspired by the unmeasured preludes of the French harpsichord composers. The music traces a line that opens out into different harmonic areas before fading into silence.
Vanishing Pathways – audio
Vanishing Pathways – score
The title comes from a painting by Paul Klee, which he created on a visit to Tunisia. Areas of radiant harmony burst out across the keyboard, whilst softer-toned chords contrast against the hard-edged sonorities.
Hamamet – audio
Hamamet – score
This is by far the longest piece in the set, portraying the mood of a magical garden that reveals its true colours at night. The mood is contemplative, and out of the darkness the piano builds up images that are illuminated by starlight.
Night Garden – audio
Night Garden – score
One of the main organisational principles of White Book 1 is the idea of the ‘wave’, and here it becomes explicit as the music progresses in a series of rising and falling contours that reach a climax and then break apart. A new motif arrives, which ebbs away into an echo of the opening.
Wave Break – audio
Wave Break – score
The Emperor’s Field
This title comes from the central square of land division in Chinese geomancy, which can also be called ‘God’s acre’. This music is the still point of the set, giving rise to feelings of timelessness and transcendence.
The Emperor’s Field – audio
The Emperor’s Field – score
Midsummer Reds is a vigorous and arresting piece full of compressed rhythmic interchanges and punchy statements. There are no moments of repose as the music catapults itself forward from gesture to gesture in ways that mirror the collision of shapes and colours in some of the paintings of Patrick Heron.
Midsummer Reds – audio
Midsummer Reds – score
The Delight of Arrival
With this final piece there is a movement back into the central harmonic area; this transforms the veiled expressiveness of Vanishing Pathways into a mood that is more purposeful and joyous.
The Delight of Arrival – audio
The Delight of Arrival – score