1995 Music

Napier’s Bones

Chamber ensemble (2-7 players)

Arranged for 6 virtuoso percussionists and improvising pianist

The first performance of this arrangement of Napier’s Bones was given by Judy Bailey (piano) and the New Zealand Percussion Ensemble, conducted by Kenneth Young, in the Wellington Town Hall during the 1996 New Zealand Composing Women’s Festival.

About the work

The original version of Napier’s Bones was written in 1989. It is scored for 24 percussionists and improvising pianist.

Napier’s Bones

I wrote this version to involve the improvising talents of pianist, Judy Bailey during the Composing Women’s Festival.

The title has many resonances, but the Napier referred to is Sir John Napier, the inventor of logarithms, and Napier’s bones in Africa were strips of ebony and ivory used for calculating, suggesting to me both rhythmic complexity and the layout of a keyboard.

The piano part is almost entirely improvised, although the pianist is given basic material to work with. There are various forms of interaction with the ensemble for the soloist — call and response, elaboration of harmonic patterns, decoration of percussion textures, improvised duets with percussion instruments, free solo improvisation. The details will vary greatly from performance to performance, although the shape of the piece, which encompasses many speeds, moods and textures in its single movement, remains constant.


This version of Napier’s Bones is scored for piano and percussion as follows:

  • Percussion  1 — vibraphone, antique cymbals, rototoms
  • Percussion  2 — vibraphones, timpani, 3 triangles, 3 metal plates, 3 brake drums, 3 almglocken.
  • Percussion  3 — marimba, glockenspiel, tubular bells, timpani, rasp, bell tree
  • Percussion  4. — rasp, marimba, glockenspiel
  • Percussion  5 — celesta, bell tree, glockenspiel, 2 bass drums
  • Percussion  6 — piano, drum of fluctuating pitch, 6 cymbals, 2 gongs, 2 tamtams, large tamtam.


Contact me if you want to see the score.


The Art of Pizza


Opera for 2 sopranos, mezzo, high tenor, 8 or 9 singers doubling small roles and chorus, accompanied by 14-piece ensemble

Libretto by Anna Maria dell’Oso

The Art of Pizza was commissioned by Chamber Made Opera with funding from the Australia Council.

About the work

The Art of Pizza is about money, the corporate world and greed. It is set in a shopping mall in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta in the early 1980s, at a time when there was still a significant Italian population based there as Asian immigrants were moving into the area. The story focuses on 3 women. Gina, an Italian woman whose husband has left her, runs a struggling pizza joint. Rosie, a Cambodian refugee is her volatile cook. She also works at night as an office cleaner and with her fellow cleaners gambles on the stock exchange with information gleaned from the office rubbish bins to raise money for her daughter’s higher education. Thida, her daughter, is still at school and works part-time in the mall’s supermarket.

The pizza joint is taken over by a pizza franchise, but Rosie continues to make her unorthodox pizzas rather than following the approved recipes. Gina falls for her contact in the pizza world, then her ex returns, now reformed — he has seen the light. And Rosie, haunted by her memories of the Pol Pot years, gambles with her employer’s money.

Written as an opera, but with rather too complex a story line, this piece would work well as a musical by retaining the songs, converting the recitative to dialogue and conveying the Cambodian back story in film, with traditional Cambodian musicians, rather than text, evoking the flashbacks.


The Art of Pizza is scored for: flute/piccolo, oboe, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon; horn, trumpet (C), trombone; percussion (2), harp; violins (2), viola, cello and double bass. Tape of electronic sounds also required.


Borrow the score from SOUNZ.

The Art of Pizza — SOUNZ


Voice and instrumental ensemble

For voice, viola and piano

A setting of 21 haiku by Alan Wells published in The New Zealand Haiku Anthology, edited by Cyril Childs (Wellington: The New Zealand Poetry Society Inc., 1993)

Haiku was originally scored for instrumental ensemble and written to celebrate Douglas Lilburn’s 80th birthday. I subsequently rearranged it and and the first performance was given in 1996 by the Dunedin-based Lyric Trio — Ana Good (soprano), Rebecca Maurice (viola) and Joyce Whitehead (piano).

About the work

The haiku are concisely set — they draw on imagery both local and universal.

Scores and recordings

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ

Haiku — SOUNZ

RNZ Concert recorded Haiku in 1996.

Haiku — audio