[sketches fr. Extinction Events & Dawn Chorus]
Liza Lim: Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus (2017)
for flute/piccolo, oboe, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon/contrabassoon, trumpet, horn, tenor-bass trombone, piano, percussion, violin, ‘cello, double bass
duration: c. 40 minutes
- Anthropogenic debris
- Retrograde inversion
- Dawn chorus
Every aesthetic trace, every footprint of an object, sparkles with absence. Sensual things are elegies to the disappearance of objects.
– Timothy Morton, Realist Magic
The fairest order in the world is a heap of random sweepings
Vast conglomerations of plastic trash circulate in five gyres in the world’s ocean currents and are ground into toxic fragments that sediment on remote islands and within the fish we eat. Our every-day rubbish shelters hermit crabs even as acid waters dissolve their former shell habitations. Albatrosses scoop up meals of plastic packaging to feed their chicks that then choke and starve as they ingest this colourful non-food.
Like this plastic waste, all time and its traces are with us still, albeit in residual and pulverised states. I have made a music out of heterogeneous relics of the past – a coarse sampling of ‘extinction events’ ranging from the spectral echoes of a creaking 19th century in piano music ‘on an overgrown path’ (Janáček), to a faulty transcription of a recording of the last mating call ever heard of the now extinct Kauai O’o bird, to tracings of a star map that captured the Chinese southern night sky in the 9th century. These time-traces rub against each other in ever-degraded cycles. Fleeting repetitions are pulsations of disappearance and point to the uncertainties of human memory and its collapse in abject forgetting.
There is broken grandeur and there are attempts to sing.
There is the uncanny dawn chorus of the fish-life that populates an endangered Australian coral reef.
Time breathes out an improbable hope.
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea?
– Shakespeare, Sonnet No. 65
- Shanghai, 20 December 2017
*update: The recording by Klangforum Wien conducted by Peter Rundel with Sophie Schafleitner is published by Kairos. More info & Spotify tracks.