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Undula is in three short movements, each inspired by the movement of water, or more specifically, by the movement of water in David Hockney's Californian pool paintings.

It's often easy to be overcome by the expectations surrounding the creation of a new work, to get hung up on the kind of piece one 'ought to write'. I was inspired by a documentary on David Hockney, by the simple joy he took in creation, as a kind of game of vision, of light. Rather than dwelling endlessly and pretentiously on one's place in 'the canon' (or as Hockney's father rather straight-forwardly put it, 'don't worry about what the neighbours are thinking'), one should simply do the thing that comes most naturally and joyfully - for me, that means playing with sound; embracing, as it were, the 'inner nerd'. I relate strongly to these aspects of joy, colour and playfulness in Hockney's work - and also his slightly mischevous spirit, and I hope to some extent I can find musical equivalents in my own work.

I took more direct inspiration from the way Hockney played with his depiction of water in his Californian pool paintings. In sometimes quite naturalistic paintings, the pool suddenly becomes a place where a quite free and abstract approach conveys a nevertheless vivid and highly original sense of the interactions between light and water.

My piece, Undula (the latin word for 'small waves') plays with the various ways music can move in a water-like 'undulating' fashion. My aim was not to depict the sound of water, so much as to attempt an aural equivalent to Hockney's abstract lines, a kind of musical 'essence of water'. On the whole, as the title suggests, I think these are small waves of the kind found in Hockney's pools, not the waves of the open sea. In the first movement 'Overlapping lines', a gentle melody with a rising and falling contour dominates, but the very end of one phrase is constantly overtaken by the start of the next, rather as one wave overtakes the previous one. In the second movement, 'Ripples in sunlight', the up-down motion is on a smaller scale, at the level of individual notes, and so the fast but unstable surface feels more related to shimmering, rippling motion than outright waves. Finally, the third movement 'Still lines, with a big splash' relates to perhaps Hockney's most famous painting, 'A bigger splash' and is a kind of small formal experiment, to see if I could build a form in which - as in Hockney's painting - a very still and tranquil surface is punctured by a sudden eruption. The undulation caused by the 'splash' here gradually dies down, the waves, refracting and 'interfering', until, like in the painting, there's no sign of the diver and we're left once again with just stillness.

Press / Latest Reviews


for Solo Piano

Duration c.10mins
Composed March-Apr 2017
First performance Molly Morkowski, Reynolds Recital Hall: Montana State University 7 Oct 2017
Commissioned by Molly Morkowski

Past Performances

Related Posts

 • New Video of Undula (2/9/2019)
 • Undula for Molly Morkowski (9/6/2017)


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