after the sermon

After the Sermon—Quiet: Easter Friday

After my father died—signalled by my alarming iPhone tones in the early morning of the day before Australia Day—I felt the violence of it hurt me like a freight train. It felt, as if in Ancient Judaic times, that I was now living in the Year in which King Hezekiah died. A type of uncontrollable fogginess descended and all was black, save for moments of love from my wife. My journeying at the end of the next month, February 2020, led me to New York city for artistic consultancy work with the Rockefeller Foundation. Through the whir of blinding streets—with honk, bang screeching and siren wails—I slipped into the visual and sonic rituals of the city. Initially, visually seeing, at the Museum of Modern Art, abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XIX (1977) swirled with the type of painterly energy my father loved. The structural order of precision roughness of Pat Passlof’s Untitled (1950) was gesturally formed energy and contained. Later, musically speaking, the mechanical cleanness of sounds and the obviousness of the structural ratios of misconstrued love in Mozart at the New York Metropolitan Opera greeted me—once in a lifetime I told myself. In the cavernous opulence of the building, it seemed somehow archaic and empty despite its twentieth century set. Quick, do the jazz clubs my friend’s waiting text said. Where are the polyrhythms? I soon weaved my way, back

through noisy and cold-lighted streets—it was winter—towards the beckoning light. After seeing the glowing neon sign on the street, I slipped in and up to the Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s jazz club. The infectious joy of the 70-year old Marilyn Maye, growl-bellowed, soared and spoke hoarsely into the air across the swung rhythm section, where bass player Phil Palombi locked under drummer Todd Strait’s bending sounds—multi-splitting beat in light cymbal swishes and complex tom-tom patterns. These polyrhythmic patterns sat across richly complex volcanic piano harmonies from Tedd Firth—his staggering solos of nothingness to every-thingness were a complex whirring architecture of sound only matched by the gravelling low register Maye—suggesting honey for her buttercup, rather ambiguously. The entwined couple at my table—with the odd kindness for a stranger, emerged at moments—but were caught in love. But somewhere deep down, sorrow was buried against a whirling backdrop—even the arrival of my friend Kate’s Sydney poem on my iPhone did not alleviate it.

Afterwards, I arrived back in Sydney to a total travel ban at Western Sydney University. Soon, even the campus was locked down. A whirlwind of electronic blur through zoom ensued; struggling eager students graced my study—glancing into my chaotically organised office. University Zoom was in the air. The strange, isolated intimacy of face-to face teaching became my reality; blurring bush runs, the love of my wife, and the warmth of our ‘socially-distanced’ neighbours countered the daily death statistics from around the world. I didn’t recognise myself in the photo, that my kind technical officer had taken of me before I left Sydney. I think of the graciousness of love—as my wife sustained me through darkness. I think of confronting my fears—not the impossible things I do not understand—the gentle advice of a kind stranger. I think of the purity of mathematics ratios, that split into myriads of sonic frequencies and the fractal variety of my gently pulsing runs within nature, at Mulgoa Nature Reserve near the foot of the Blue mountains in Sydney. I think of the energies of sub-atomic particles and the God particle; hazily understood but whirring around Hadron collider—the world’s faster accelerator. I think of Tang Xianzu’s poetry in the Peony Pavilion where ‘graceful fish diving deep…shy like blushing flowers’ become ‘zhe yi sha [this brief moment] tian [heaven made]’; here, nature’s Daoist flow of energy pulses with life. I think about Yahweh Elohim and the metaphorical Song of Songs, where this energy that sustains the world resides—as ‘I arose to open for my lover. And my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with myrrh, on the handles of the lock. I opened for my love’ [Wo qilai, yao gei wo liangren kaimen, Wode liang shou dixia moyao, wode zhitou you moyao ye di zai mensuo shang. Wo gei wode liangren kaile men]. I think of the spirit of hope in the Hillsong Easter Sermon—afterwards. Life is no longer zero—it has light.

After the Sermon—Quiet was created in April 2020 in lockdown at home in Sydney after the pandemic restrictions had come into force.

Credits:  Bruce Crossman: piano improvisation, sound design, environment/studio audio recording & filming; Film location: Mulgoa Nature Reserve, Sydney, Australia; Date of session: studio recording: Friday 10th April 2020, Glenmore Park, Sydney, Australia

© music & film: Bruce Crossman, Sydney 2020; © article: Bruce Crossman, Friday 10th April 2020