Childhood (2016), c. 10′

Childhood was composed for NZTrio as part of the composer’s sabbatical leave from The University of Otago, for performances in 2017 and beyond.

The piece reflects on different stages in life, and makes connections between our own childhood and that of our children, and indeed our grandchildren. Observing and relating to children is like a renewal of hope and wonder, that counterbalances the experiences and tribulations of adult life. Therefore, the style of the music is deliberately naïve and simple, while also containing undercurrents of complexity.

An opening progression of a tone gradually expands and unfolds into dual pentatonic scales on the piano. The strings enter with a basic open 5th progression that grows into a short theme. This theme forms the basis for much of the material that follows, almost in the manner of a theme and variations. A third ingredient emerges after letter E, a chord progression that ascends on the piano. An ABAB structure is established leading to a climax, and a new variation on the main theme appearing at letter K. This tantrum-like idea suddenly switches to a calming, neutral theme at bar 182, and this pattern repeats, and these two sharply contrasting sections alternate. The ‘calming’ idea eventually takes over at letter P, and is developed. However, an echo of the tantrum-like idea sounds at letter S, with primitive, percussive progressions on the piano. The music’s energy winds down, with violin and cello developing a soulful duo. There are reminders of earlier piano arpeggios before the child-like texture of the opening returns to end the piece.

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