Instrumentation 2/2/2/2; 4/2/3/0; timp + 2 perc; orchestral strings
Percussion requirements (1) chimes, snare dr, log drum (low), sm. lion’s roar, med. woodblock, glass wind chimes, 2 glass jars, bundt pan (old style, thick metal), sm. tamtam, hi-hat cymbal, triangle, vibraslap; (2) chimes (share with 1), glock, bass dr, lg. lion’s roar, sticks, bamboo wind chimes (or bin-sazara), sandpaper blocks, anvil, lg. tamtam, low cowbell, sm. susp. cymbal

Timing 8′

Composed 2001

Commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with funding from the Ontario Arts Council

World Premiere April 18, 2001, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Ontario. Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor

Performances by Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestra London, Regina Symphony, Ottawa Symphony

Programme Notes

VIOLET CRUMBLE BARViolet Crumble is the definitive Australian chocolate bar — a chunk of crispy golden honeycomb covered in chocolate (which makes it much like the Crunchie bars we have in North America). “It’s the way it shatters that matters,” so they say. I first heard about it on a CBC Radio phone-in show, where listeners were asked to call with their Violet Crumble recollections, and I was amazed at how much affection people have for it. It was created in 1913 by Abel Hoadley and was an immediate success, so much so that since then it seems to have become an ingrained part of Australian culture, second only to Vegemite. The impact and influence of Violet Crumble has clearly been far-reaching. “Violet Crumble” has become Aussie rhyming slang for “tumble,” as in “He slipped on the ice and took a Violet Crumble.” A plethora of recipes are available that include Violet Crumbles. If you mix together butterscotch Schnapps and chocolate liqueur, the result is a Violet Crumble shooter. And then there is the “Infamous Violet Crumble Incident” written up in the Australian Journal of Family Therapy…In a 35g bar, 23g of it is sugar.

In the last few years I have become increasingly interested in writing music that dances — music with a strong pulse and lots of energy — and “Violet Crumble” gave me just the inspiration I needed. The gooey candy, the nervous energy that comes with too much sugar, the caffeine in the chocolate, the idea of “shattering,” the image of “tumbling” — all of these have found their way into this short one-movement piece. After a slow introduction that luxuriates in rich chocolate, the sugar kicks in, and the music takes off at a non-stop frantic pace, constantly switching ideas and shifting focus as it succumbs to the effects of a few too many Violet Crumbles.

Violet Crumble was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with funding from the Ontario Arts Council. It is dedicated to all those who believe sugar, chocolate and caffeine constitute a food group.


Indeed, the effects include swooning melodies, manic screeching and a percussionist banging on a Bundt pan as the sounds follow a pitiable snacker from rush to crash—and, inexorably, to popping another piece in his mouth. The music is similarly addictive. (Jen Graves/The News Tribune, Tacoma)

Jeffrey Ryan offered a toothsome confection, a twist on conventional programmatic music, with markings such as “luxuriously” and “hypoglycemically.” Mostly playful, with the moment of high over-indulgence especially humorous, this piece of nervous energy is also a meditation on the nature of pleasure. With sharp shifts in tempo and pulling all the stops with the deliberate self-indulgence of the confirmed chocoholic, this thoroughly engaging concert opener is the kind of “modern” classical music that seeks to communicate, even seduce, rather than alienate its listeners. (J H Stape/Review Vancouver)

…a sugar high of sounds. (Peter Robb/Artsfile)

PDF perusal score

Violet Crumble perusal

Audio excerpt

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Full-size Score $80 print, $48 PDF
Study Score $49 print
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