Fierce Tranquillity details

Fierce Tranquillity

for violin, viola, cello (2007)

piano; percussion (kulintang, crotales, vibraphone, bass drum, Korean Temple gong, suspended cymbal, Peking Opera gong, 2 roto-toms [low, middle], ching [suspended], 3 bongos [low, middle, high], K’kwaenggwari)
duration: 17′ 00″; publisher: Wirripang

score available from
Wirripang Pty Ltd

Samulnori, Bruce Crossman, Chan Hae Lee & Andrew Imbrie for the Pacific Music Festival 2005, including premiere of Fierce Tranquillity

program note

The title’s duality—fierce tranquility—reflects the music’s philosophical mood, of quiet indignant resistance that turns to fierce unity against tumultuous times. My friends, one a shakuhachi master and the other a Korean-born student, introduced me to Japanese and Korean musical concepts of the inner timbre life of sound and spiritual “oneness” which provided the material for my musical resistance statement. The music’s macro design is from slow stillness to unified open string brutality—a cumulative build towards end-time climax drawing on Eastern musical models. A perforated opening stillness sets the initial mood of unsettling quiet; shakuhachi-like breathy harmonics, slides and quarter-tones on viola are punctuated by alternating open string and col legno attacks on violin, whilst the cello drone anchors the work. The breathy tune is also pitted against ascending sonic bursts based on Filipino kulintang scales in a nearly frenetic activity that settles back to the opening stillness. Other builds ensue in the work: drone-like fifths against jazzy syncopated eruptions and a final climax of hammered brutal open string resonances, which evolve from a borrowed fifteenth century Korean musical fragment. This fragment first unfolds in the centre of the work. Rich double-stopping chords reverberate in widely spaced harmonics and drones to create slow stasis moments amongst the tumult. Ultimately however, the trio evolves to frenetic fifth resonances synchronized in the outer textures with brutal inner contributions on viola. The tumult is intended to create “oneness” of utterance: a musical defiance effect.


“The subtle layers, oppositions, parallel and opposing resonances are features of Crossman’s technique, also revealed in the oxymoron that is the title Fierce Tranquillity. This is an exemplary statement of string writing with an Asian-Pacific identity, of music that stays fresh with repeated hearings.”
Professor Michael Atherton, preface CD Double Resonances Wirr017


available on writings page (see TAASA Review and CAESS)

performance history                                                                                     

27 March 2009, Fierce Tranquillity (string trio) Next Mushroom Promotion (Japan) Small Hall, Tongyeong Arts Centre, Tongyeong International Music Festival, Korea

1 May 2005, Fierce Tranquillity, Pacific Rim Music Festival Commission, New Asia String Quartet (Kum Ho Quartet, Korea), UCSC Recital Hall, Santa Cruz