1976 Music


Chamber ensemble (2-7 players)

For viola and piano

Moonstone was commissioned by Glynne Adams, with funding assistance from the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). It is dedicated to Glynne Adams and Janetta McStay. The first performance was probably given by Robert Ashworth and Sarah Watkins in 2021.

About the work

Moonstone was written in London and Orkney around 1976 or 1977.

At that time I was exploring the possibilities of using proportions based on the patterns of magic squares, known since the Middle Ages and even earlier, and associated with the planets, sun and moon. In these squares, a series of consecutive numbers (1-9, 1-16, 1-25, etc) are arrayed to form a solid square in which the vertical, horizontal and diagonals all add up to the same number.

It’s not necessary to know any of this to experience the piece, but the title, as well as being the title of a book by Wilkie Collins, indicates the use of the square of the moon — the numbers 1 to 81. This was the first time I’d experimented with that square, which was also the basis of a number of later pieces such as Moon, Tides and Shoreline and Resurgences.

There are 4 movements. The first and most substantial, can stand alone, while the second is scherzo-like. The third, which again can stand alone, has elements of improvisation — the performers are given 9 boxes, and it’s up to them to determine the order, dynamics and tempi of the fragments. The piece ends when one box is played for the third time.

Score and recording

I’d like to thank Elliot Vaughan for his transcription and editing of a fairly complex handwritten score, and Robert and Sarah for their tremendous dedication to giving the piece life.

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Moonstone — SOUNZ

A CD including this work can be bought from all good record stores.

Moonstone — CD


Solo instrument

For viola

Ricercare was commissioned by Philip Clark with funding from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, and first performed by him at the Maidment Theatre, Auckland in 1976.

About the work

In Ricercare a series of 3 recitatives and arias develop in and out of each other so that there is no clear-cut division between them.

Like much of my music at the time, the pitches, rhythms and section structure are based on proportions based on a magic square — this time the square of Mercury.

Score and recording

Contact me if you are interested in seeing the score.


RNZ Concert recorded Philip Clark’s performance.

Ricercare — audio

Voices of Tane

Piano, Teaching works

7 short pieces for piano

About the work

Voices of Tane was written for my godson, Kit Boyes. It was the first piece I wrote on my return to New Zealand after 9 years in Europe and was written with intermediate performers in mind.

Tane is the Māori god of forests, and the trees, plants, birds and other creatures who live there.

There is little to say about the pieces themselves except that the last repeats the first, the third has to do with birdsong, the fifth with wind, and the sixth consists of 9 ideas that the pianist plays in whatever sequence she or he wishes.

Ken Young recorded a short talk about this work for RNZ Concert.

Voices of Tane — introduction

Scores and recordings

Voices of Tane was published by Price Milburn Music in 1977.

Voices of Tane — publication

RNZ Concert recorded Voices of Tane in 1986.

Voices of Tane — audio

Tristan and Iseult


Opera for 4 singers, mimes and puppets accompanied by a 14-piece ensemble

Libretto by Malcolm Crowthers and Michael Hill

The first performances of Tristan and Iseult were given from 4 to 9 April 1978 at the Maidment Theatre during the Auckland International Festival with Jane Manning (soprano), Robert Oliver (tenor), Roger Wilson (baritone) and Graeme Wall (tenor), conducted by William Southgate and directed by Ros Clark.

The costumes for the original production were designed by Priscilla Pitts and the set was designed by Gretchen Albrecht. 7 banners were arranged to hang in a semi-circle on stage, each banner having its own colour variations linking it to parts of the opera.

About the work

The opera tells the story of the old Cornish legend of the 2 lovers, Tristan and Iseult, in which Tristan, fights and kills the Morholt which was threatening King Mark’s Cornish kingdom, but is badly wounded.

His boat drifts to Ireland, where he is healed by Iseult. Back at court, King Mark says he will only marry the owner of a hair of gold, and Tristan volunteers to find this woman. The woman is Iseult, and when Tristan is bringing her back to court they are becalmed, and thirsting, unknowingly drink a love potion intended for King Mark and Iseult. The consequences of this drive the rest of the story.

Drawing on sources going back to the 12th century, the librettists reduced the story to its simplest structure, producing a text of 13 short scenes. They conceived the work as a sort of mediaeval court masque, introduced by troubadours, who tell the story, but are gradually absorbed into it as the momentum grows, preparing for further transformation in the madness scene, in which various events are telescoped so that it becomes uncertain whether the events are real or occur only in the minds of the separated lovers.

As with the libretto, the music moves freely between various levels. For the first, I drew on 2 early sources — the 14th century dance Lamento di Tristan, and Belle Douette. A second level is the quasi-plainsong music of the narrators, a third the ballad-like style describing Tristan’s heroic or not-so-heroic adventures where puppet action predominates, and the fourth related to my usual style of writing, which prevails in the scenes in which the action between the main protagonists takes place.

This is no place to go into the technical details of the piece, but at this time I was working using magic squares — which have been associated with the sun, moon and planets at least since mediaeval times — as a major element in my writing. As a ‘conceit’, music derived from the square of Jupiter represents King Mark, Venus represents Tristan and Iseult, Mars the battle scenes, the moon the orchard in moonlight, and so on.


The opera is written for 2 tenors, baritone, mezzo-soprano, a minimum of 4 mimes and puppets.


Tristan and Iseult is scored for flute (doubling alto flute and piccolo), oboe, clarinet (doubling bass and E flat clarinets), horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion, harp and string quintet.

Score and recording

Price Milburn Music published the vocal score and libretto of Tristan and Iseult in 1977.

Tristan and Iseult — publication

Buy or borrow the score, parts and libretto from SOUNZ.

Tristan and Iseult — SOUNZ

A recording by Peter Crowe has been lodged at the Alexander Turnbull Library and may be accessed with permission.

Tristan and Iseult — ATL


Tristan and Iseult won a special APRA Silver Scroll award in 1978.


The Composers’ Association Newsletter from October 1978 features a review of the premiere season. Borrow it from SOUNZ.

CANZ newsletter 1978 — SOUNZ

‘I loved this Tristan and Iseult because here we have a beautiful and archetypal tale of conflict between loyalty and love, told and acted out with supreme economy and clarity in a combination of sound and movement unsullied by romantic lushness or gothic fancy, but with the uncluttered strong lines of Romanesque architecture.’

— Robert Leek, Radio Talk

Five songs of Hildegard von Bingen

Choral music

For SATB choir

Texts in Latin by Hildegard von Bingen

The first performance of Five songs of Hildegard von Bingen was given by the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir conducted Charles Colman in the Great Hall, University of Sydney on 16 November 1982.

About the work

I took words, but not her music, from the Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th century woman who was poet and hymn-writer, musician and composer, theologian, mystic writer and naturalist. I was drawn particularly to the imagery which, unlike most biblical imagery, draws on nature.

The 5 movements are:

  • Spiritus sanctus, vivificans vita
  • O coruscans lux stellarum
  • Laus trinitatis
  • O nobilissima viriditas, and
  • Caritas abundant in omnia.


Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Five songs of Hildegard von Bingen — SOUNZ


Voice and instrumental ensemble

For female reciter, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion

Poem in old English translated by Bill Manhire

Wulf was commissioned by Auckland Contemporary Music Rostrum and first performed by them on 24 April 1977 at the Maidment Theatre in Auckland conducted by William Southgate with Ros Clark (reciter).

About the work

Bill Manhire writes: ‘The old English poem “Wulf and Eadwacer” has always puzzled scholars, to the extent that it was at one time thought to be a riddle. The poem is now generally assumed to be the lament of a woman separated from her lover, Wulf. Who Wulf is, or was, remains obscure.

‘[The text of] Wulf is a fairly free version of the Old English poem. I have not attempted to “solve” any of problems of the original poem, but I hope that Wulf maintains, as it were, the emotion of the original, and that its voice is as suggestive. What is taken from the speaker, for instance, may be a child, born or unborn — ‘the spine of a feather, a cloud in the body”. Or it may be, simply, the possibility of love.’

Score and recording

Borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Wulf — SOUNZ

You may be able to borrow an RNZ recording of the premiere in 1977 from Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision

Wulf — Ngā Taonga