- Studies of British Spiders
duration: 11 minutes
ARANEIS - Studies of British Spiders (1999)
1. Silver Swimmer (Argyroneta Aquatica) -
tenor (3 min)
2. Araneomorph Aeronaught - descant (1 min
3. Diadem - treble (5 min 20 sec)
My interest in spiders was activated by the book Spiderland
by R.A. Ellis. This amazing book describes all types of spiders and their
habits in rich and flowing Victorian prose, in which the author refers
to several spiders as close personal friends. It was this fascination
and delight in the arachnid world that I wanted to portray rather than
the arachnaphobic image that is more often associated with our eight-legged
These three pieces were written for and first performed by Louise Phillips
who had first introduced me to the contemporary Japanese recorder repertoire.
This influence is strongly felt in the first piece, which describes the
only underwater spider in Britain. The silver swimmer
constructs its web by collecting air bubbles and creating an air bell
in which it lives. Varied glissandi and tremolandi are used in this gentle,
simple and passive piece.
"Araneomorph aeronaught" is the
name give to the baby spider who is dispersed from the nest by climbing
to a high post or bush, facing the wind, where it sends out a Ion. thread
of silk which is then caught by the wind, lifting the tiny spider into
the air. The currents carry the spider off until eventually it is returned
to the earth to set up home in pastures new. The melodic and rhythmic
material is constructed entirely from the letter patterns in the words
"araneomorph", "aeronaught" and other related words,
through which the music lifts off and flies through the air.
Diadem is a more extended piece which moves
from static calm to purposeful activity, ending with the "Song of
the Spider". The Diadem spider is the common garden spider familiar
to all as the builder of the beautiful orb web. The spider sits patiently
at the centre, waiting for the vibrations of both wind and prey.
Having gained an MA (distinction) in composition in 1999, Liz
Johnson (née Dilnot) is now studying towards PhD. (Composition)
at Birmingham Conservatoire with Philip Cashian and Robin Grant.
Her recorder quartet Pond Life examines the movements and
shapes of water beetles, daphnia and snail shells, close links with nature
often being a feature in her music. Cygnus for percussion
quartet explores the beautiful constellation of the swan and was selected
by spnm for performance at the 1999 Spitalfields Festival by Ensemble
Bash. Her first string quartet Images of Trees was featured
at the RNCM Quartetfest 2000 and her cello and piano sonata Brief
is the Breath won the Birmingham Chamber Music Society Composition
Prize 2000. Other works include Twelve Jewels, performed by
BCMG in June 2000, Walking Dreaming for gamelan orchestra,
which was played as part of the 1999 World Music Day at Symphony Hall, Birmingham,
and a range of sacred and secular choral works which have been sung in cathedrals
around the country.
Liz also performs her own work in the three-voice group Alchemy in
which the music of Hildegard von Bingen is sung alongside new works for
female voices and instruments. She has toured Germany as director of the
Birmingham Conservatoire Composer's Ensemble and is the founder and director
of the Thallein Vocal Ensemble specialising in contemporary works
for unaccompanied chamber choir.
Back to shortlist.