Some of Anthony Ritchie’s recent compositions have focused on the concept of naivety in music, the idea of creating music through a child’s ears, so to speak. Featured here are videos of recent works by Anthony as well as his concert notes from these performances in Sweden where he was Composer-in-Residence.

Associate Professor Anthony Ritchie, Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts, spent time as Composer-in-Residence at the Visby International Centre for Composers in Sweden last year.

His work focused on the creation of a new symphony exploring the concept of naivety in music. During his stay members of the Dalecarlia Quintet staged a concert of Anthony’s work in Karlstad. Two new works were premiered: Three Scenes for Solo Clarinet and Violin Sonata No.3. These performances have been published online by The Centre for New Zealand Music.

Featured here are videos of the performances as well as Anthony’s concert notes:

Philosophy of music

The triangle of composer-performer-listener is important for me. Music is communication at a deep level… it taps into parts of our brain that are non-verbal, and primitive – the same parts of the brain associated with the pleasure of eating or having sex. I want music to excite, to stimulate and intrigue, to make people cry or laugh…to encourage emotions to the surface. Music can also be intellectual, and techniques and structures are also important. However, the technical is secondary to musical expression. The intellectual side of composing is really only relevant to composers and musicians, but not generally for the listening public. For me, all methods of composition, all systems, are a means to the end: they are aimed at the primary function of music, which is to make us feel things, like sadness, happiness, wonder, pleasure, and so on.

Violin Sonata No.3

I wrote this piece on request for Manu Berkeljon, who premiered it with Swedish pianist Bengt Fordberg.

1st movement – Dreams. The piece is built on loose associations, and a theme that keeps coming back, which is like a recurring thought in a dream. It’s a wistful idea theme with shifting harmonies. The tempo also keeps changing from slower to faster, and dreamy themes suddenly turn into vigorous, edgy ones…the music is unpredictable.

2nd movement – Lament. This is almost like a continuation of dreams…slow, sad melodies at the start get overtaken by a primitive, folk-like idea that speeds up to a rapid passage in the middle. The mood is transported from grief to another mood altogether, one that is more lively. The slow sad music returns at the end, and there is no sense of resolution.

3rd movement – Dance. This is a spooky kind of gig, with East European overtones. Some of the piano textures suggest the Hungarian cimbalom, while the violin plays fiddle-style some of the time. There are two main themes that merge into one another, so the effect is as if the players were improvising.

Three Scenes for solo clarinet

This was commissioned by clarinetist, Anna McGregor, who performs it in the film.

1st movement – Stealth – this piece slowly creeps into action. A little motif is gradually extended more and more until it covers the whole range of the instrument. The stealthy idea at the start is contrasted by an interruption, some squawking high notes that sound like a bird. A cat trying to catch it?

2nd movement – Bush Scene – Being alone in the NZ bush one can make one feel philosophical. A sad opening melody gives way to a more perky, playful idea. I had in mind here a kea visiting the person sitting on a rock, taking them out of their philosophical mood.

3rd movement – Play – This is another gig, but the regular repeated rhythms get overtaken by strident duplet patterns. There is a quieter, more reflective passage near the end, before the gig returns. Not easy to play!


Purakaunui at Dawn

Written for the Dalecarlia Quintet, 2014. This was recorded on the album Fjarran: In the Distance, which was co-winner of the Best Classical Music Album at The NZ Music Awards, 2016.

Purakaunui is a small village near Dunedin, and a hidden paradise. This piece is based on a bird-call I recorded at Purakaunui, very early in the morning. This piece is a simple meditation on the calls and the environment. The clarinet plays the role of the bird, and the strings provide a colourful backdrop.


Clarinet Quintet

Originally written for Gretchen La Roche, and NZ String Quartet, commissioned by Christopher Marshall in 2006. This was recorded on the album Fjarran: In the Distance, which was co-winner of the Best Classical Music Album at The NZ Music Awards, 2016.

The style of music is generally more edgy than the other pieces in this concert, and more concerned with psychological states of mind.

1st movement – After a dark opening on clarinet, the music erupts into a high energy piece. I enjoy exploring strong contrasts of mood, between almost hyper-activity, and very dark sounding pieces.

2nd movement – This is a dark and intense piece. The clarinet theme slowly unfolds over astringent string clusters.

3rd movement –I took a phrase from Mozart’s famous clarinet quintet and transformed it into the opening theme (It was Mozart’s 250th anniversary of his birth in 2006). The music is flowing in character.


SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music Facebook page.