Equally well known as a composer, writer and the presenter of ABC Radio National’s The Music Show, Andrew Ford has received accolades that include the Paul Lowin Prize (for the song cycle, Learning to Howl) and Albert H Maggs Award (for Rauha). Ford’s music has been performed and broadcast in more than 40 countries around the world.
Contradance, was commissioned by Steven Alward to celebrate the 60th birthday of Mark Wakely, and Ford was specifically asked to include some dance rhythms in the piece. Ford’s title refers, in the first instance, to the piling up of these rhythms in various places in the piece, different dance patterns pitted against each other. But the work also captures the buoyant and gregarious spirit of the contradance – the French term is a corruption of the English ‘country dance’ – in which couples dance in opposing lines. The work is far less predictable than a typical contradance, however, and is certainly not constructed using the standard 8-bar building blocks. Indeed the jaunty rhythmic and melodic patterns in Ford’s piece are continually undergoing subtle alterations and unexpected turns creating a sense of being slightly off-kilter.
Ford takes the play on words one step further in his choice of instrumentation: scored for winds, piano and strings, Contradance makes extensive use of both the contrabass (double bass) and the contrabassoon, which, reinforced by the bottom end of the piano, plumb the sonic depths of the ensemble from the very first bar of the piece.