In the 1980s I composed a series of instrumental and vocal pieces under the generic title maninya. Two of these were incorporated into my violin concerto Maninyas (1988). The word maninya, extracted from a nonsense text I set to music in Maninya I (1981) for voice and cello, came to denote certain characteristics of the music I was writing, which had acquired a mesmeric, chant-like quality through varied repetition and kaleidoscopic interplay of material within a narrow range of limitations. There is also evidence of my developing interest in ritual music from various non-western sources.
More influential than any music, however, was the natural environment, a timeless continuum from which much of the material was subconsciously absorbed and distilled. I’ve found the ecstatic, mysterious, sound-tapestry of the insect chorus in the heat of the Australian summer an irresistible source of inspiration which, with birdsong and frog counterpoint, is manifest in the elaborated drones and quirky periodicity of the maninya pieces. To this day the sounds and patterns of nature remain the supreme generative force behind everything I compose.
Incantations is the title I gave to the revised version of Maninya III (1985). It was commissioned by Kim Williams for Musica Viva Australia and is dedicated to Anthony Gilbert.