Tom Williams
Ironwork (1991)

Ironwork (1991)

Ironwork is the first part of Ground Cycle, a trilogy of piano and tape pieces. The cycle explores aspects of the Chinese elements: metal, water, wood, fire and earth; with each piece being a transmutation of two elements. Ironwork pertains to metal/autumn, but with elements of fire/summer. It begins fast and furious with hard, iron sounds on the tape (recordings made of the iron frame of a piano); gradually the fiery energy dissipates as autumn takes hold. The complete cycle has a musical ground, a six-note chord, and it is in Ironwork that it is at its most insistent.

Ironwork for piano and prepared tape MP3 recording performance at University of Northampton 1997. Piano David Arden.



  1. 1993 ALEA III International Composition Competition Finalists’ Concert Oct. 2nd 7.00pm

Piano: John MacDonald

Review from the Boston Globe by Richard Buell of that night featuring six finalists:
“… Tom Williams’s Ironwork for piano and tape was another mostly “up” piece, even to resembling a sports event somewhat. The material issuing from the loudspeakers seemed to function as a goad to pianist John MacDonaled to be fast, motoric, jumpy, syncopated. etc., and not fall behind. A different tempo offered some relief, then (after some revamping) it was back to as it had been at the beginning, a giddy, cartoonish pursuit as if by click tape or even wolves.”

Ironwork was runner up.

  1. John MacDonald subsequently performed Ironwork at Boston University in March 1994
  2. David Arden performed Ironwork at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Recital Hall, 25th November, 1997
  3. He also performed the work at Nene College (24th November 1997) and carried on to perform the following:
  4. in Holland (Nov. 1997)
  5. in Johannesburg (July 1998)
  6. in Grahamstown (July 2001) in South Africa