Heaven to Earth Border House Project

Ritualised Performative Explosion of Creative Identities Towards Intercultural Exchange

Explosive Ideas

The ritualised performative explosion of identities towards creative exchange, witnessed in contemporary Chinese artist Cai’s fluid explosive creativity, speaks to the spirit of this new album—Heaven to Earth Border House with the Navona label in the USA, released on the 24 September 2021.

The seeds of the Heaven to Earth Border House collaboration reached a moment of revelation for myself and my friend, Korean taegŭm virtuoso Hyelim Kim, as we viewed Cai Guo-Qiang’s Yin & Yang Flows in Exploded Gestures and Transience II (Peony) & Flow (Cypress) at the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces: Terracotta Warriors and Cai Guo-Chiang, National Gallery of Victoria, 24 May-13 October 2019.

Figure 1: Hyelim Kim and Bruce Crossman at the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces: Terracotta Warriors and Cai Guo-Chiang, National Gallery of Victoria, 24 May-13 October 2019 (photos: Bruce Crossman, Hyelim Kim)

Interestingly, Cai’s use of the Chinese literati tradition of peony and cypress symbols of beauty with resonances of royalty, virtue, resilience and personal identity (‘Transience (Peony)’, ‘Flow (Cypress)’), worked through the curved gallery spaces on intercultural surfaces of silk and Japanese hemp paper rearranged from unpredictable explosions of another Chinese cultural icon, gunpowder. To us, it was suggesting spirit through imaginative cultural juxtapositions between pyrotechnics and painting to express the artist-in-the-now. The artist noted in the NGV wall notes, that just prior to unleashing the explosive energy of gunpowder, he prayed in the moment before unleashing a flow of contemporary mark making that was a ritualised performative explosion of identities. One that was resonant of the traditional past, but intangibly of the moment’s movement, and controlled by dimensions of spirit.

Explosive Performativity and Poetry

This new album, Heaven to Earth Border House, was inspired by poetry—the recent ecological beauty of connection to heaven from Sydney-based poet Kate Fagan’s “Border House (Notes to a Bird),” and the sensuous shimmering of nature as allegories of intimate connection and Daoist spiritual flow in ancient Chinese poet Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavillion, with deeply inspiring creativity of translation from Lindy Li Mark in the USA.

Figure 2: Yi Jiyoung (gayageum), Bruce Crossman (composer), Hyelim Kim (taegŭm) (photos:  Kim Jin-hwan, Vincent Tay, Jinhwan Lee)

This album’s creative explosion of poetic and spiritual expressions, flows transnationally in an equally ‘shared creative combustion’  from Sydney to Hong Kong to Seoul to London with exciting musicianship from Hyelim Kim (taegŭm),Yi Ji-young (gayageum), Chiu Tan Ching (guzheng),  Claire Edwardes (percussion), Anna Fraser (soprano),  Linda Yim (piano), Timothy Phillips (percussion) and  Michael Kieran Harvey (piano) with electronic remixes/composition by sound artist Ian Stevenson. Its two main works—Shy Like Blushing Flowers and Heaven to Earth Border House, are the result of a collective creativity that ruptured, changed and grew in its vitality thanks to the generosity of people sharing their creative sparks to the project.

Figure 3: Chiu Tan Ching (guzheng), Shy Like Blushing Flowers film, Claire Edwardes (percussion) (photos: Petar Jovanov, Simon Killalea)

Figure 4: Michael Kieran Harvey (piano), Timothy Phillips (percussion), Linda Yim (piano) Anna Fraser (soprano), Claire Edwardes (percussion) (photos: Petar Jovanov, Bruce Crossman) 

Special thanks are due to William Lane, artistic director, Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, who encouraged the early seeds of this project to flourish, Ivana Hauser, A&R for Navona Records, for encouraging the release of this collective creativity within the support of the excellence of the Navona team, and Professor Jocelyn Chey of the Institute for Australian and Chinese Arts and Culture as well as Professors Peter Hutchings and Matt McGuire from the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University in supporting this practice-led research.

Heaven to Earth Border House

Navona (USA), NV6364, Digital & Physical formats, September 24, 2021 release date

Navona catalogue page: Heaven to Earth Border House album


Michael Kieran Harvey (piano), Timothy Phillips (percussion), Anna Fraser (soprano), Claire Edwardes (percussion),  Linda Yim (piano), Chiu Tan Ching guzheng, Hyelim Kim (taegŭm) and Yi Ji-young (gayageum), Ian Stevenson (sound design), Kate Fagan (poetry), Lindy Li Mark (translations)

Catalogue note: 

Australian Bruce Crossman blends East and West in his new release HEAVEN TO EARTH BORDER HOUSE on Navona Records. With his modernist approach to musical construction and style, he effortlessly integrates traditional Western, Korean, and Chinese instruments and philosophies into a coherent, enlightening whole.

HEAVEN TO EARTH BORDER HOUSE uniquely features two kinds of zithers: the Korean gayageum as well as the Chinese guzheng, and the largest Korean bamboo flute, the taegum. These instruments are alternatingly grounded by Western percussion, the piano and a haunting soprano. The subject matter of the musical pieces is ethereal: Allegoric titles such as Garden of Fire, Fragrant Rain Clouds of Love, and Strange Invisible Perfume reveal the fragile poetry expressed in the music – oscillating between the sensual and the spiritual.

Shy Like Blushing Flowers

Film: Simon Killalea (director)

See: Simon Killalea on Vimeo—Shy Like Blushing Flowers

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