About the Piece
Nightcreeper, composed in 2000, is scored for 6-string bass guitar, piano and percussion. The bass guitar is essentially the soloist, though the piano and percussion have very strong supporting roles.
The piece was inspired by an archetypal scene which will be familiar to anyone who has seen a few action movies (e.g.- Enter the Dragon, True Lies, every single Bond movie). The scene unfolds as follows: Character A (often accompanied by Character B) has to infiltrate High Security Installation X (usually a military base of some kind) and quietly perform some secret and often very delicate operation without being discovered. If they are caught, the game is up and their endeavours at an end.
We watch them furtively climb over a high wall or fence, then sneak alongside it, crouching down out of sight occasionally to avoid a roving searchlight or a nearby guard. Often, rather than attempt to sneak past the guard, they may just "take care" of him.
Finally we get our first real glimpse of Installation X - a massive compound, full of heavily armed soldiers, vehicles and other heavy equipment (if it is a terrorist base, then there will almost certainly be a stolen nuclear missile or two present). Eventually they arrive at their destination within the installation, and begin their operation. Time is short, they must move quickly.
Nightcreeper is essentially in two sections: 1. “Infiltration, and 2. “Operation”, which flow into each other without a break. I had originally planned for Nightcreeper to be a two-movement piece, and thus to write a second movement: entitled “Alarm” inspired by the inevitable triggering of the alarm that follows the scene described above. It never quite happened.
The piece involves some very difficult material for bass, and also some interesting techniques; most notably the extensive use of the volume, and in the second section the use of what I would describe as an “echo glissando” technique borrowed from guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen.
There’s a fairly strong jazz influence running through Nightcreeper, both in the material and in the use of the ensemble. Despite not being at all improvisational, I had in mind the conversational style of the Bill Evans Trio as something of a model for how the instruments should interact.