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I started composing From the Roaring Forties in November 2017, and completed it in January 2018. The rugged and windswept coastal scenery that can be found all around New Zealand was the main inspiration for the piece, and it was written to be the first of a pair. The remarkably pristine and remote Stewart Island was particularly inspirational; I visited for the first time in December 2017, when I was in the midst of writing the piece.
From the Roaring Forties begins with an exciting and energetic theme, which is based on the mixolydian mode. It features 3:2 polyrhythms, which are heard throughout much of the piece. This rhythmic figure helps to conjure up images of nineteenth-century ships being blown across the South Pacific. The relatively dissonant main theme of the contrasting middle section is based on the whole tone scale. It introduces moments of great tension to the piece, which are evocative of rough and treacherous seas. These moments quickly pass though, and seamlessly drift into moments of tranquility and beauty, possibly representative of the many bush-clad bays, sounds, and fiords of New Zealand. A repeat of the first section follows the middle section, and the piece is concluded with a dramatic coda.
Dedicated to John Laurie