Musical works & Multi Modal Compositions
I’ve always been interested in music but was a relatively late starter when it came to learning an instrument. I didn’t begin formal lessons until I was 15. I learnt classical guitar with various private teachers then began studying that instrument seriously a little later at the Sydney School of Guitar. At the same time I also began studying composition with Anne Car-Boyd and Moya Henderson and enrolled in the composition course at Wollongong University. Many years later I learned the flamenco guitar and played professionally with a dance troupe for a couple of years. In recent years I have concentrated my musical activity on writing music, mostly small ensemble works, such as string quintets, though I am working on a couple of large scale orchestral pieces.
Since 2014 I have been focusing on setting music to the words and images from some of my picture books and now have a variety of works available on DVD.
Requiem for a Beast
Requiem for a Beast was my first multi-modal work, scored for chamber orchestra, two singers and a narrator. It was published in 2005 by Hachette Livre/Lothian and featured a CD accompanying the book.Requiem for a Beast.
Name: Exerpt from Pie Jesu
Artist: Hester Hannah soprano, Elandra Ensemble
Album: Requiem for a Beast
Et in terra pax (And on Earth Peace)
This is a musical work composed for mass choir and piano, setting words from one of the most ancient Christian masses to images of animal combat, humans at sport, and ultimately humans at war. It’s a meditation on the war like nature of humanity.
A 40 minute ensemble work with accompanying images/animations produced by me, along with additional text and lyrics by Rebecca Young, was commissioned by MusicBook Inc for its launch at the 2017 Perth Fringe Festival.
The music for Teacup is scored for a chamber orchestra (piano, violin, cello, double bass, electric organ, pre-recorded natural sounds, a Baroque recorder quartet, two singers and a narrator). The accompanying images, both still and animated, are based on the oil paintings in the book. The whole is a dynamic, multi artistic experience that further explores the themes of love, grief, fear, awe and great joy that are expressed in the book. At times the music is tranquil, poignant and reflective, at other times wild and exuberant.
Tree is a 7 minute work featuring music for string quintet and piano, set to the images from the book Tree and narrated by the author, Danny Parker. The DVD includes two tracks. One track is complete with images, music and narration, and the second track consists of music and images only, ideal for self narrated performance in the classroom.
Home & Away
From the book by James Marsden, about one family’s displacement by war and the tragic sequence of events which follow, this work is set for a small symphony orchestra, narrator and soprano (featuring Nina Baumer in the recording). It runs for 18 minutes and is accompanied by images from the book, as well as archival photographs of asylum seekers from around the world.
Music for string quintet, set to the images from Parachute, written by Danny Parker and narrated by Tina Wilson. Running time is 9 minutes per track. One track is complete with images, music and narration, the other with music and images only.
Dumazi & The Big Yellow Lion
30 minute musical work specifically composed for the heart warming children’s book written by Valanga Khoza and Illustrated by me. Composed by me for a small orchestra with guest composition by Valanga Khoza (narration, lyrics and playing of traditional zulu instruments).
In 2007 the album King Hit was released by Interactive Publications. It is a collection of poems by Stephen Oliver, set to music by me. Most of the tracks are poems recited by Stephen, with a couple of tracks sung by soprano Hester Hannah. The musical accompaniment for the album covers a wide range of genres and styles from classical to rock to blues/jazz.
Below is an excerpt from King Hit:
Name: A Simple Tale
Artist: Stephen Oliver voice, Matt Ottley oud
Album: King Hit
This process of writing music for children’s books has culminated in a unique series of performances/workshops known as The Sound of Picture Books. To see more examples visit the ‘Sound of Picture Books’ page.