winter steps was composed in the early weeks of June, 1983 and was my first work for orchestra since graduating from undergraduate music school in Canberra in 1980. The intervening years were taken up (apart from some film and television music) solely with a set of five songs on which I worked very hard to liberate myself from the compositional techniques I had learned as an undergraduate. With these songs I intended to free myself from the constraints of what seemed to me ‘self-conscious Modernism.’ winter steps is an extension of this liberation.
My goal with this work was three-fold. Firstly, to use the form, like most composers, as a test of contrapuntal skill and invention. Secondly, as a study in orchestral color and texture. Thirdly, as a study in dissonance, tension, climax and resolution in the broader formal sense. winter steps is to a ground of 9 bars with a subsequent set of eighteen variations. The theme, while not being clearly diatonic is implicitly tonal and this tonal bias is borne out in subsequent argument.
The work was premiered by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (Australia) in 1981 as part of the state of Victoria’s 150th anniversary celebrations and broadcast nationally in Australia on ABC-FM.