Archive for June, 2008

The Lighter Side of Gravity

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

These five pieces are now available in published form, as a small paper-backed volume, with the overall title: “The Lighter Side of Gravity”. Since the longest piece is about Father Christmas, it could serve as a Christmas gift. To be referred to the publisher’s web site, click on the icon below…

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

©Robert Miller 2008

The Origin of Species by Creative Evolution, or How we got our legs (A Case-Study in Phylogenetic Engineering)

A little fish is swimming in a rock pool on the shores of Gondwanaland, observed by an all-seeing power. In despair, the fish calls out “I want to see the world!”. There follows a series of miraculous transformations, in which the fish becomes, in turn, a Lung-Fish, a Tree-Frog, several types of dinosaur, a kangaroo, a pigeon, and various primate species. In the end, the fish becomes Fred Dagg, the archetype of the rugby-loving kiwi farmer. Total duration: about 500 million years (or 20 million years per page; you never had better value than this!)

Fritz Schnitzler and the Ear-Tuner

On a frosty morning in Tübingen, South Germany, eight-year old Fritz Schnitzler, out walking with his Grandpa, finds a frozen ear, fallen from a passing cyclist. In his efforts to return this, and other lost ears to their owners, Fritz meets a clever professor, specialist in ears, who reveals new vistas to the growing imagination of young Fritz.

‘Ow Our Harold found ‘t Neutron (with acknowledgments to Stanley Holloway)

The books on the history of science will tell you that, in 1932, James Chadwick, of the Cavendish Physics Laboratory, Cambridge, discovered a small entity, subsequently referred to as “the neutron”. Robert Miller, drawing on previously-unknown first-hand testimony of this event, provides a radically different take on this chapter in the history of twentieth century science. To read the text of this new version of history, click on the title above; or to hear (and see) a Video of RM introducing and reading his description, click below.

Get the Flash Player to see this movie.

(Corrigendum: In preparing this little piece of fantasy, I realize that, in the Video version, I have made one factual error. In the introduction to my poem, I refer to Peter Kapitsa, the Russian engineer and physicist, saying that, when he went back to Russia, to visit family, the others at the Cavendish were worried that he might not come back, adding “but he always did”. That last comment is incorrect: When Kapitsa went back to Russia in 1934, the Soviet authorities withdrew his passport, and he could no longer travel. He spent the rest of his life as a Soviet scientist, eventually winning the Nobel prize in the 1970s, for work done 40 years earlier. It is also probable that my father won his scholarship to Cambridge in 1927, not 1926, as stated in my introduction. All the other details, including those in my poem, are absolutely true.)

A Mole in the Department (Orwellian comment on Research Funding)

This document, smuggled with great daring from a secret prison in furthest Cyberia, is a memorandum taken from a meeting a few years previously, Chaired by Professor Bengt Axelrod, Head of Department of Molecular and Cellular Eugenics, University of Extreme Possibilities, at the start of the new academic year, sometime in the third millenium.

Father Christmas Re-locates.
Life is hard, these days, at the North Pole. Father Christmas, CEO of ‘Father Christmas Enterprises’, the oldest of all multinationals, is beset by mounting problems: Grants from the Father Christmas Funding Organization are becoming contestable; there are impossible requests from the Chimney Clearance Authority; and then a strange letter from George Dubya what’s ‘is name. In the end global warming forces his hand: Father Christmas, and the whole organization is forced to emigrate down under – to New Zealand. They set up a new office in Timaru, in the South island. Father Christmas, with his team of nine reindeer, and sixteen elfs explore business opportunities in the new environment. Amongst many new initiatives, they come up with a new cutting-edge technology which soon promises to solve the problem of global warming at a stroke. A little over forty years later, the plan has worked, the North Pole has frozen over again, and Father Christmas, just a little older, can reopen the North Pole office.


NEWSFLASH! On 27th June, I have obtained an ISBN Number for my book “A Neurodynamic Theory of Schizophrenia and Related Disorders”. As a result, the back cover of my book now looks like this:

© R Miller 2008

I am offering this remarkable image to the Tate Gallery (Modern), as a trenchant symbol of the decline of Western Civilization. However, offers over £1 Million might be considered.

Dance Septet

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

In 2007 I was enrolled in the second-year composition class at Otago University, and this piece was supposed to have been our last assignment for the year. However, I was heavily involved with another pressing task (producing subject and author indices for my book on the theory of schizophrenia, details of which can be found elsewhere on this website). So I didn’t get the piece in, in time for it to be included. It was eventually completed on December 5th 2007. It is a very joyful piece, a wild dance for a five-part string band, featuring clarinet and oboe in lead roles. The time signature is 9/8, one which I find very interesting, inviting all sorts of rhythmic games. To hear the opening section of the piece, click on the title below. To hear the complete piece, or to down-load the score and parts, click on the “SibeliusMusic” button at the foot of this page. This will take you to the SibeliusMusic website, from where, via the “Browse by composer” listing, you can find my piece. Duration: about 5 minutes.

Dance Septet

In Memoriam

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

This piece grew over many years, when I would sit down at the piano and express my feelings, playing by ear. My father died in 1995, and my mother two years later. After that, I worked at the ideas in my previous piano extemporizations, gave the piece a definite form, arranged it for string quartet, and a proper key structure. That was finished in 1998. In April (2008) I worked at it again, improved the weaker sections, and then made an additional arrangement for string orchestra rather than string quartet. It is in a slow three/four time-signature, much of it in a “chaconne” rhythm, with a quicker fugal middle section. To hear the opening sections of the piece (in either version), click on the title. To hear the complete versions of these pieces, or to down-load the scores and parts, click on the “SibeliusMusic” button at the foot of this page. This refers you to the SibeliusMusic website, from where, using “Browse by composers”, you can reach my pieces. Duration: about 14 minutes

In Memoriam (String Orchestra Version)

In Memoriam (String Quartet Version)

Rags to Riches

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

In the 1970s I became fascinated by ragtime music of Scott Joplin, and wrote a number of pieces for piano in this style. Here I have arranged these pieces for six-, seven -, or nine-part brass ensembles. (One of them was in part newly-written, from an incomplete piece I had sketched some years before.) By clicking on the title of each piece you can hear the first minute or two. To hear the complete version of each piece, and to down-load the score and parts, you should click on the “SibeliusMusic” button at the foot of this page. This will transfer you to the SibeliusMusic website, from where, using “Browse by composer” you will find my pieces. Total duration of this suite: about 25 minutes. In order, the pieces (and their brief descriptions) are:

1. Any Old Rag

Originally written in piano form about 1976, the last year before I came to New Zealand, when I lived in Selly Oak, Birmingham. In my score, I have added, above the very last phrase of the brass arrangement the words “Alleluiah, Amen”, which just fitted the rhythm. Acknowledgements to my brother Tom for a suggestion half way through where there is a “syncopated rest”.

2. Song of Contemplation

This also must have been written about the time I left Britain, because I know there is another idea which I owe to my brother Tom, that is, to bring back the main tune at the end in the tenor register.

3. Sim Street Rag

When I arrived in Dunedin in April 1977, I rented a house for a short time in Sim Street, Maori Hill, only about 100 years from where I now live on Monro Street. There was a piano in the living room, and that was where this piece emerged.

4. Lullaby and Awakening

This is the fusion of two pieces. One was originally called “Ragtime Lullaby”, written in the early 1980s, when I was a new father. The other was incomplete until 2007, with the title “Ice-Cream Cake Walk”. In the composition class at Otago, in 2007 we had an assignment to write a piece for brass group, so I thought of completing the second piece, and joining it to the first. My tutor in this part of the course, Peter Adams, suggested a “bridge passage”, explained as follows: The infant, at last, has fallen asleep, the parents themselves fall asleep, for all-too-short a spell. Then the alarm clock rings, and then “all hell breaks loose” again, and the second part, in faster rhythm begins.

5. Grandma’s Been at the Gin Again

The image I have in mind here is of a fit sixty year old grandmother, who has a few drinks. . . .Then someone puts on an old 78 rpm record from the 1920s, and before long she is showing her grandchildren how to do the Charleston.

6. Weeping Song

This was written about 1985, the year my marriage ended. That perhaps is enough to explain the emotional tone of this piece. The climax of the piece is when the music become very quiet and almost stops, and then “digs deep”, and gradually rebuilds confidence, to end on a more positive note, but still tinged with sadness.

7. George Street Stomp

This was written sometime in the mid-1980s, and here is scored for nine brass instruments, the largest combination I use of all these seven pieces. “George Street” is the main shopping street of Dunedin. The image I have in mind is of the class of Physical Education students, who were the class I did most of my teaching with in the first few years at Otago. This is about what they get up to on a Saturday evening.