for mezzo-soprano, violin, piano and percussion (2010-12)
mezzo-soprano (including clap-sticks); violin; 1 percussionist (kulintang, crotales, vibraphone, hi-hat cymbals, Peking Opera gongs [middle, high], Japanese temple bowl [high], ching [suspended], wood block); piano Part 1: Water and Fire (14’oo”); Part 2: Spirit (11’00) duration: 25’00” score available from AMC
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 Judaic-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 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).
Hong Kong inspiration
Calligraphic Painting Inspiration
East Coast Australian Bush Inspiration
REALISATION OF A DREAM
The Gentleness-Suddenness Project at Campbelltown Arts Centre
The project consists of three works: Gentleness-Suddenness (forty-minutes) using a Western opera singer with ensemble, and Double Resonances and Not Broken Bruised-Reed for instrumental ensemble. Gentleness-Suddenness (2010-12) draws on traditional Chinese Opera and Australian contemporary music and film exploring Asian-Pacific intercultural communication. It is essentially 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 Judaic-Christian biblical texts. The intercultural nature of the project includes interaction with Asia-Pacific culture from China (Kunqu, Jingju and Cantonese Opera traditions and calligraphy) and Australian-orientated experimental musical and filmic live-projection/photographic approaches. Gentleness-Suddenness draws on the Chinese esthetic of ‘motion and energy in sound’, which synergizes with calligraphical brush motion but interpreted as sonic motion and filmic interaction. Musical colour is developed through finely developed shades of timbre through piano preparation, vocal colour inflections (especially with regard to Kunqu and Cantonese opera vocalisation), and various gong resonances from China. The rhythmic language draws on free-jazz and specific Chinese set-rhythmic-patterns of Jingju opera movement (such as Ciu-ch’ iu-pan).
This interdisciplinary project draws together leading Australian performers Claire Edwardes (percussion), Michael Kieran Harvey (piano), James Cuddeford (violin), Lotte Latukefu (mezzo-soprano) with Asian-Pacific focused composer Bruce Crossman alongside photographer David Cubby and projectionist Simon Killalea, who have both developed work for iconic Australian rock band Cold Chisel, as well as with sound-diffusion by Ian Stevenson. Intercultural documentary filmmaker Iqbal Barkat will film the project live for later broadcast and documentation publication. The principle idea of the production is to swirl the multi-lingual aspects (English and Mandarin) and intercultural sounds around the space via sound diffusion working with the synergy of photos of Beijing Opera (Jingju) intermingled with calligraphical live-projections of the contemporary performers. In essence it is a multicultural re-interpretation of an ancient Asian-Pacific genre.
The ABC Classic FM radio recorded the work on 29th June 2103 during its premiere at the Campbelltown Arts Centre.
“Hearing several of Crossman’s pieces in succession provided a clear window into his aesthetic—space, clarity, action and reaction—and language, one that incorporates aspects of Asian music expressed through the idiomatic sounds of Western instruments. Harvey, Edwardes, Cuddeford and Latukefu took painstaking care to bring out the ensemble and individual details that cram Crossman’s scores. The works were recorded during the week prior to the concert and there will be many among the audience, like myself, who will be keen to have a second listen to the performances of these mysterious and subtle pieces. This was an engrossing and satisfying concert of music that displayed the highest artistic ambition and craft on the part of composer and performers.”
Real Time: Partial Durations: News, reviews & discussion of New Music (online), James Nightingale, ‘Gentleness-Suddenness, Bruce Crossman’, July 3, 2013.
The project has its philosophical basis in contemporary Chinese scholar-composer Chou Wen-chung’s ideas on the ancient wenren figure as a creative stimulator across art forms. It will explore interaction with Asia-Pacific culture from China (Kunqu, Jingju and Cantonese Opera traditions, calligraphy and Kunqu dance) and Australian-orientated experimental musical and filmic approaches (real-time video projections/photography and post-tonal sonority and extended instrumental and vocal techniques). The work is based on Peony Pavilion and biblical texts to be sung in English and Mandarin to reach out to Australian and Chinese audiences as part of an Asian-Pacific identity.
Chinese University of Hong Kong