Double Resonances explores the idea of the resonances of two cultures (East and West) as a resource for establishing a personal sound resonant of a Pacific locale. Out of stillness half resonances from prepared and altered piano techniques merge with Korean temple gong and Samul Nori metal resonances. Bass sounds in shifting, Filipino-inspired ostinato rhythms propel the piece forward against sudden jazzy intrusions based on dissonant interval-colours. A Filipino scale borrowed from the percussive gong-chime beauty of a particular kulintang—that of world musician, Michael Atherton—underpins the percussion pitches in this stormy first section and later, during recurring still centres, it merges with the gentle sounds of the Chinese Shang-tiao mode as moments of sparky tranquillity. The jazz-inspired intrusions and developed repeated note drivers return to form a massive sonic climax which includes moments of controlled improvisation for the players; the climax subsides, ebbing back to the half echoes of prepared piano and transcendence of a temple gong sound.
NOT BROKEN BRUISED-REED
The Judeo-Christian idea of not breaking a bruised-reed or snuffing out light but instead allowing it to flourish is the basis behind this composition. The heart of the sounds draw on the poignancy of the Korean kyemyŏnjo scale as the basis for the Pansori-like form (traditional speech-song) as a type of bruised utterance that emerges from noise to flower in lyricism. Its chromatic-tinged wholetones form the basis of layered harmonic resonances that wrestle with jazz-influenced sections based on extemporizations on Korean changgo rhythm. Resonating metals from luminous Filipino kulintang gong-chimes, soft Korean ching drones and strident k’kwaenggwari accelerations match the rhythmic and harmonic complexity. A controlled extemporization for the players emerges at the work’s centre culminating in the instrumentalists’ vocalized cry “a-p’u-ji a-na” (no hurts). A late flowering of the earlier Korean modal resonances returns and then rests within the quiet ‘living colours’ of prepared piano vibrations, whistling, ching glissando, and breath.
Gentleness-Suddenness is a meditation on love and creativity inspired by and a fusion of texts drawn from the Chinese Opera tradition of Kunqu, specifically the Peony Pavilion, and Judeo-Christian biblical texts from Genesis, Psalms, Song of Songs and Revelation. The work is structured in two parts concerned with elemental themes.
The first part, “Water and Fire,” is structured in one arc beginning and ending in silence with cathartic outpouring at the centre: the central static underpinning of Filipino gong music structure is at its heart. This movement explores a fusion of a contemporary avant-garde harmonic language with Southeast and East Asian modal sounds, Jingju and Cantonese Opera rhythmic movement, Jingju melodic shape and Cantonese vocal line inflections with musical gestures inspired by calligraphical painting. It develops an interval-colour moment approach, references the elegant melodic structures of Kunqu; these melodic touches merge with Australian birdsong interpreted as a highly placed pure-harmonic gradually increasing in dynamic to end in rough snap rhythms. It also explores finely developed shades of timbre through piano preparation, vocal colour inflections (especially with regard to Chinese opera vocalisation), and various gong resonances from China, Korea and the Philippines.
The second part, “Spirit,” is also structured in one arc. Beginning in stillness, the music builds to frenetic and raucous movement at the center, before subsiding back to stillness. The opening and closing ‘living colours’ of changing vocal vibrato and phonemes are mirrored with other extended techniques: piano string-stops and pizzicato, violinistic bowing pressure distortions and behind-the-bridge resonances, as well as percussive scraping and glissandi. It is as if the spirit of creativity of the texts are stirring as ‘living colour frames’ for the music. Its middle section is inspired by the raucous and frenetic colouristic sounds of the paired back metal percussion of Cantonese opera’s luogu dianzi techniques and florid vocal melisma of Jingju to express the text’s erotic consummation of lovers. Quieter understated moments permeated by fragments of Kunqu melody with Shang-tia mode-based interval-colour sonorities flank the center section; their resonances of interval-colour with vibraphone and Japanese Temple bowl resonances providing suggestions of the spiritual, creative and erotic stillness of “zheyi sha tian” (this brief moment).
The visual and sound design components of this collaborative music-theatre work, Gentleness-Suddenness, are multidimensional. They draw on David Cubby (photographer) and Simon Killalea’s (projectionist) pixilated moving photographic stills of Beijing Opera (Jingju) performers—the ancient artistic inspiration of the music. These approaches are intermingled with live modern performers interpreted as calligraphic motion synergized within swirling sound design by Ian Stevenson (sound diffusionist). The chief idea is a reinterpretation of ancient and modern genres as a contemporary confluence of Pacific Rim traditions towards an Asian-Pacific identity.
WHERE ARE THE SOUNDS OF JOY?
Where are the Sounds of Joy? takes its inspiration from Australian Gallipoli warrior, Billy Sing, and re-envisages his life through Kunqu—the mother form of Chinese opera. It reimagines the Gallipoli war from the Chinese perspective with the metaphor from Kunqu in the Peony Pavilion, of a broken down garden as the site for dreaming of the ideal lover, used as a parallel of Gallipoli as broken down walls from which one dreams of escape. The work opens and closes with half-sung, half-breath sounds on trumpet alongside emergent ‘broken’ prepared-sounds on piano and Mandarin whisperings, whilst pure percussion colours focus to war-like Peking opera gong bursts. A gentle section emerges centering the work with a subdued trumpet plunger tune, related to Kunqu melodic fragments; it sits amidst rich piano resonances, including silent-string sympathetic half-sounds, and eerie bowed crotales as an imagined dreaming of love. The work ends amidst half-resonances on piano and Mandarin whisperings—“shui jia yuan?” (where are the sounds of joy?) over the lingering Kunqu dream harmony.
Author of Liner Notes Bruce Crossman
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