Pukerangi (for solo mandolin, 2002), written for Michael Hooper, was inspired by a recent trip along the Taieri Gorge Railway in New Zealand. The railway traverses a stunning and remote landscape as it climbs its way to Pukerangi (Hill of Heaven), located about 250 metres above sea level. While my mandolin piece is not strictly programmatic, I have drawn musical inspiration from the sounds and energy of locomotion, the dramatic natural environment and the notion of ascending and striving to reach a destination.
In recent years, much of my music has been scored for choir and, accordingly, I have brought some of my favourite choral music ideas to the mandolin. My choral scores often exhibit frequent shifts of timbre through antiphonal use of soprano/alto and tenor/bass vocal groups. In my writing for mandolin, this translates as frequent shifts between playing ‘near the bridge’ and ‘on the fingerboard’, and also ‘behind the bridge’ and midway at the ‘ordinary’ position. Also explored in my mandolin composition are ways of sustaining sounds on the instrument, such as allowing lingering ostinati (played behind the bridge) to emanate from ‘under the voice’ of strummed chords, as well as frequent use of the resonant open strings in both melodic and accompanying roles.
I sincerely thank Michael Hooper for affording the work its premiere performance at the Great Hall, University of Sydney, on Wednesday 23rd September, 2002.