*Contemporary Piece*. Three fascinating duets with glittering harmonies and interesting rhythms.
1. Shower of Amethysts
2. Crystal Towers
3. Shattered Moonlight
_Score 7 pp._
OMP064 Lance Eccles, On the Forest Floor.
OMP078 Lance Eccles, Spangled Sonata.
Lance Eccles is a senior lecturer in Chinese at Macquarie University in Australia. He is also a member of the Sydney Society of Recorder Players and the Reluctant Consort since 1982. It is for these two groups that Eccles composes his music.
For me, these two sets of duets were an introduction to a com-poser with a unique and fascinating sound. Forest Floor is the easier of the two sets and is appropriate for moderately able players. Sonata is more suited to advanced players, but both share common elements, and neither requires extended techniques.
On the Forest Floor is a set of five duos, each of which aurally depicts items that might he found during a walk in the (Australian) woods. Individual pieces have titles like: "Grasshoppers," "Wombat's Breakfast," and (my favourite) "Antechinuses". Having titles in mind while playing the pieces allows performers and audiences to visualize the different images. "Lichens," for example, evokes a slow walk through underbrush, and grasshoppers flit capriciously around in the mind's eye. Prior to playing these pieces I had never heard of the antechinus, one of Australia's many marsupials. The music created an image in my head that turned out to be startlingly accurate, once I had the opportunity to learn more of this unusual and amusing creature: testament to Eccles' ability to create visual imagery through music.
He also uses imagery in his Spangled Sonata, though here the images are not of be everyday world, but rather fanciful pictures of reflected or refracted light: "Showers of Amethysts," "Crystal Towers" and "Shattered Moonlight." Given the abstract nature of the titles, it would not be surprising to discover that the pieces are more abstract. Nevertheless the titles and music provide a firm ground for creating your own mental image of, say, a shower of amethysts (whatever that may be).
Musically the most remarkable features of these two sets are the harmonic structure of the pieces and the rhythms used in them. Eccles favours dissonance throughout the pieces. The harmonies are liberally peppered with seconds, sixths, sevenths and often diminished seconds or augmented sevenths (E against Eb, F# against G). The pieces, though, never sound abrasive or jarring, and they don't fluctuate between consonance and dissonance. Rather they are, at times, awash with a fullness of tone similar to that of an accordion or mouth organ. This quality is more prevalent in Sonata, where fragmented harmonies help create the effect of scattered light. Eccles uses syncopated rhythms in both Sonata and Forest Floor, often setting two voices against one another, but the rhythms in Sonata are more complex. Its time signatures are generally mutable, changing every bar or two: those in Forest Floor are consistent within each movement.
I would like to point out that the Orpheus Music web site has new features that take some guess work out of purchasing new compositions. Most of their publications are now listed on the website, along with short sound clips of the music and a scanned image of each first page. While still not the same as browsing through sheet music in a store, the features give a clearer idea of the music than words alone can and take away a bit of the gamble involved in shopping over the internet.
Geoffrey Allen, American Recorder, March 2004