Garden of Fire
for mezzo-soprano, percussion (crotales, vibraphone, kulintang, hi-hat cymbals, 2 Peking Opera gongs [middle, high]), & piano (2017)
duration: 17′ 46″
publisher: Australian Music Centre
score available from AMC
Garden of Fire takes its point of departure from the sensuality of Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavillion poetry through lucid translations from Lindy Li Mark and Mandarin as well as the structured sense of revelatory space from the Chinese Gardens in Sydney. The music explores the poetry’s static sense of understated erotic tensions that suddenly strike the senses through nature allusions through inside-the-note vocalizations and operatic vibrato through the mezzo-soprano line, and accentuates the colours through drawing on both traditional Chinese and extended European instrumental techniques in the percussion and piano. The living colour aesthetic from Chinese Confucian thought that underpins the vocal line, is extended through the Chinese opera percussion sensitivity to sliding gong timbres and resonances as well as prepared string vibrations on piano. The structure of the work is composed of flanking distilled sections of colour transformations at the beginning and end of the piece around static colours which gain propelling motion to a form multi-sonority climax, with elements of Peking Opera modal pitches, percussive freedom, free-jazz intrusions and pulsations. The timelessness of a free section presents the “shyness” after the climactic and dissolves back into an emergent colour labyrinth where distilled colour wrestles with jazzy ruptures. The macrocosmic idea is flow between differing sections of a Chinese Garden around the dream-like states of the Peony poetry through dreams of distilled, climactic, free and wrestling emotions as the sensuality dream portion of the larger sequence of Shakespearean and Tang Xianzu dream tableaus.
Poetic libretto: from scene 3, ‘The Interrupted Dream,’ The Peony Pavilion, A Ming Dynasty Musical Drama by Tang Xianzu. English title translations by Lindy Li Mark are used in the musical score.
Garden of Fire is dedicated to Colleen, my beautiful wife of over thirty years. It was written for Anna Fraser (mezzo-soprano), Claire Edwardes (percussion) and Linda Yim (piano).
Anna Fraser (mezzo-soprano), Claire Edwardes (percussion) and Linda Yim (piano) premiered the work with video artist Simon Killalea and sound diffusionist Ian Stevenson as part of the Shy Like Blushing Flowers Create NSW Development at Q Theatre, The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, on the 11th October 2017. The event was filmed by: Simon Killalea – film/director; and Ian Stevenson – sound recording/mastering engineer.
The development of “Garden of Fire” within the Shy Like Blushing Flowers Project was supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW, The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre and Western Sydney University.
available on writings page (see Brutal-Shy Resonances)