I’ve had an exciting few months with the world and national premieres of a number of large works and the privilege of working with extraordinary musicians and inspiring human beings. The most recent work to come to fruition was Atlas of the Sky (2018), a 75-minute staged work premiered 3 days ago at the Melbourne Recital Centre, commissioned and performed by Speak Percussion (Eugene Ughetti, Matthias Schack-Arnott, Kaylie Melville) with soprano Jessica Aszodi and a ‘crowd’ of community musicians ranging in ages from 13-70. The production team included choreographer Jo Lloyd, lighting designer Keith Tucker and sound designer Tilman Robinson. What a joy to work with everyone on this project!
There was plenty of discussion about the project in the lead up – here are a few links:
Interview with soprano Jessica Azsodi in Cut-Common by Stephanie Eslake
Interview with Katherine Walsh, one of the crowd performers
The Music Show, chat between myself, Eugene Ughetti & Andrew Ford
Our next stop with the work is at the Darmstadt Summer Course on 19 July.
Earlier in June, I’d been in Charleston at the Spoleto Festival which presented an astonishingly beautiful production of my opera Tree of Codes (2016) directed by the great Singaporean director Ong Keng Sen and led by visionary conductor John Kennedy with the part of Adela performed by soprano Marisol Montalvo, ‘the Son’ played by baritone, Elliot Madore and a silent role ‘the dresser’, performed by Walter Dundervill. The orchestra was made up of musicians from all over the States who played with superb attention to colour and detail. Here’s the full info on who was involved: Tree-of-Codes Spoleto program
This was a completely different take on the opera from its first production at Opera Cologne with Ensemble MusikFabrik in 2016. Thank you to Limelight Magazine’s Clive Paget for a pre-show article and also for coming from New York to do a review.
I encountered such warm hospitality in Charleston – the Zero Restaurant + Bar even made a cocktail called Two Worlds in Thyme to celebrate the opera. It was strong, thyme-y, delicious and fun.
There were a few aperol spritzes in Vienna where I was working with Ensemble Klangforum Wien on another big piece, the 40-minute Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus (2018) for 12 musicians conducted by Peter Rundel which was performed in Witten and then repeated at the Konzerthaus in Vienna. There’s info and a link to the score on issuu in Ricordi’s May newsletter. The Vienna performance is slated to come out on CD next year but you can hear the broadcast from WDR3 of the premiere from Wittenertage für neue Kammermusik (starts around 5:45′ after interview/introduction from Martina Seeber):
Here are some rehearsal pics which show some of the more unusual instrumental moments – a duo between bowed prepared snare drum played with gob-smacking virtuosity by Lukas Schiske and the violin soloist Sophie Schafleitner + the trumpeter Anders Nyqvist playing on his ‘firebird’ trumpet which is a hybrid trumpet with slide – great for glissandi. There’s also a moment right at the end of work where bassoonist Lorelei Dowling attaches an extra tube to her contraforte to achieve a low F0 – a notional 22hz which is at the threshold of human hearing – a gesture to a horizon of post-human existence which our world seems to be hurtling towards.
One more premiere that happened in between the Klangforum concerts was of my double bass solo The Table of Knowledge (2017) played by Florentin Ginot who presented a monster recital rather stunningly staged at the Philharmonie in Cologne as part of the Acht Brücken Festival. The piece adopts a technique from the Vietnamese mouth-violin, the Dan K’ni, in which the mouth is used as a resonator allowing the player to modulate the sound to produce many overtones. I hope to be able to share a video of the work later. The next performance of the work from Florentin is on 29 September at the Venice Biennale of Music.
Last but not least, there was a lot of joy, again at the Melbourne Recital Centre, when the ELISION Ensemble presented If the Gods came down to Earth as Cowboys for the Metropolis Festival. This was a program of works by Unsuk Chin, Adi Snir, Aaron Cassidy and the Australian premiere of my Ronda – the Spinning World (2017). The Brazilian-themed work was originally written for Ensemble Modern as part of a project looking at the self-made instruments and philosophy of Walter Smetak and we were fortunate to find substitutes for the Smetak instruments built in similar spirit by Australian artist David Murphy.
& a short video (made by Raph Buckley) showing David Murphy’s Rotary Weather Harp:
Enormous thanks to the commissioning partners of the various works: the Australia Council and Creative Victoria (Atlas of the Sky), APRA-AMCOS Art Music Fund & Wittenertage für neue Kammermusik (Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus), Siemens Music Foundation & Acht Brücken Festival (The Table of Knowledge), Oper Köln, Ensemble Musikfabrik, HELLERAU – Europäisches Zentrum der Künste in co-operation with the Akademie der Künste der Welt Cologne (Tree of Codes) and Ensemble Modern, Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Goethe Institut & DAAD (Ronda – the Spinning World).