Joe Stollery

composer

This website details the compositions and performances of composer Joe Stollery.

2009

(MIDI recording)

This piece is one of the earliest compositions I completed. I composed it as part of my Higher Music portfolio.

This somewhat impressionist piece is in a rough ternary form, with the two sections contrasting in tonality. The first section is based on F# major, but is constantly countered by its tritone neighbour key of C major, resulting in a somewhat dissonant, octotonic tonality. The second section is purely diatonic, and focuses on C major.

The accompanying figures of the piece also play a part. The first section has an almost constant rising arpeggio which accommodates both F# and C major. The second section consists of patterns of rising and falling 5ths all separated in terms of interval by a 9th.

After both sections comes a free, cadenza-like passage, before returning to the first section. The piece ends with a tritone which resolves itself onto F# major.

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2011

(MIDI recording)

This piece was written in my first university year for Chandra Chapman, who played it through, although the piece has yet to receive its official public premiere.

The piece is a representation of the Harpies of Greek mythology, merciless bird-women who tormented the dead of Tartarus by constantly stealing their food and defecating on them, amongst other things. It is not specifically programmatic, but rather an evocation of their character.

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2013

(MIDI recording)

This composition formed part of a project in which all the students of my year were asked to create three short variations for piano based on a musical acronym devised by Dr Geoff Palmer, named after the local city: A-B-E-R(D, after Re)-D-E-E-N(a group of 4 notes following the points of this letter).

For these variations, I chose use the ‘Aberdeen’ theme symbolically in the context of character pieces based on some of the city’s best known features.

  1. ‘Granite’ – This variation is Neoclassical in style, and evokes the rigidity of Aberdeen’s most common building material. It is structured in strict formal blocks, and there are added notes which colour the tonality of D major.

  2. ‘Haar’ – The haar is the North Sea fog that occasionally envelops Aberdeen. Here, the theme makes up the bass of the variation. Over this, I have added some Impressionist harmonies.

  3. ‘Seagulls’ – This variation is the most explicitly programmatic, depicting seagulls attacking and Aberdeen defending itself. As well as the ‘Aberdeen’ theme, I have also made imitations of seagulls’ cries with dissonant chord clusters. These two motifs come into intensifying conflict, until the ‘Aberdeen’ theme conquers the final statement.

These pieces make up the second of my third year compositions. The third variation was performed publically by Richard Bailey, along with many other contributions, as part of the course. in November 2013.

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2014

(MIDI recording)

The unicorn is a creature that has had a remarkably developed mythology. Originating in the East, it has since been adapted as a recognisable symbol across Europe, particularly in Scotland, where it is regarded as one of its National animals.

To reflect these things, this piece has been designed in the form of a strathspey, but the atmosphere overall is arabesque, with suggestions of metallic gongs in the LH part, and even a hint of the diabolical (the unicorn is said to have cloven hooves!)

In this piece, I wanted to imagine a scène de ballet, in which a unicorn dances for the pleasure of Scottish nobility, placing its own personal take on a Scottish dance.

I composed this piece in my spare time at the university on the 17th March 2014, later revising it on the 30th September that year. It is hoped this piece will be the first of several such ‘unicorn dances’.

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2016

This set of five miniatures for piano solo originate from a visit to the village of Rhynie, where there are several stones carved with Pictish symbols. I was intrigued by the mystery of these symbols, which range from animals (real and fantastical) to inanimate objects and abstract symbols, often in combinations on each stone. For this piece, each miniature is based on a different symbol, from which I interpreted based on possible meaning and historical context as well as design. Because almost nothing is known for certain about their meanings, I have had the freedom to express my own interpretations of the symbols through musical means.

I chose a variety of animals and abstract symbols that interested me in particular for this set, and modelled it so that the former were placed in odd-numbered positions and the latter in even-numbered ones, as shown below. The animals are generally self-contained character pieces, and the abstract symbols act more as interludes.

I. The Salmon

Quite clearly identifiable, the salmon represents magic and travels through and between other worlds according to some scholars; hence, by representing a gateway into this mysterious world of symbols, I have chosen to begin the set with it. In musical terms, the salmon flows gently through the water with fluid harmonies and in a constantly moving compound metre.

II. The Z-Rod

This abstract symbol seems to possibly represent the sun. For this, along with the other abstract symbol in the 4th miniature, I have gone for a sustained, more rhythmically static atmosphere, focusing mainly on harmonies and registers. I have also gone to interpret the shape of the symbol zig-zagging through a crossing set of arpeggios in the densely climactic middle, and the harmonic chords cross one another in a very rough symmetrical rotation.

III. The Head Cult

The head, almost clearly defined as a dog, is said to represent the seat of the spirit. Some have also suggested it to be representative of a shape-shifter. In contrast to the Salmon, the music is sharp and hollow, with a pulsing irregular rhythm and an almost ritualistic pattern in the bass-line, perhaps suggesting constant metamorphosis.

IV. The V-Rod

This abstract symbol with its crescent shape suggests a representation of the moon, and so I have gone for a quiet nocturnal feel in this miniature. Like the Z-Rod, the music is sustained and static and is made up mostly of chords. It also has a reflective symmetry in relation to its V-shape.

V. The Pictish Beast

This enigmatic creature has been interpreted variously as a dolphin, an elephant, a kelpie and even a dragon, but regardless of what it truly is, it has a formidably graceful aesthetic to it, and so I have decided on a brutal, rhythmically irregular (yet precise) nature to finish off this set. One reading of the symbol suggests its power over water, hence dominating and controlling the paths between worlds. To symbolise this, I have returned to the harmonic language of the first miniature. It is also the most characteristically diverse miniature of the set, combining elements of the Salmon and Head Cult.

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