hidden stillness

Creative Resilience in a Time of Crisis: Hidden Stillness

To create something new that reanimates old values and is, moreover, beautiful is really the ideal, yet such only comes as a heavenly revelation. You cannot create it simply because you want to. (Hiroshi Naito, Hiroshi Naito 2005-2013: From Protoscape to Protoscape, 20014, p.51)

Using visible forms to express the intangible world…this epistemological outlook has deeply influenced me. (Cai Guo-Qiang, p.79, The Spirit of Painting: Cai Guo-Qiang at the Prado, 2018)

I am struck by the fragile beauty revelations in a time of crisis by Japanese architect Hiroshi Naito and the inner wrestle with the hidden forces of life in Chinese ‘gunpowder’ artist Cai Guo-Qiang questioning of the nature of creativity and its relationship to life. I think within the music context; we might ask the same fragile questions of our artistic and intellectual practice. Does our creativity connect to life? How does energy of the materiality of sonic spaces and senses of light connect to people and the expanse of our environs? Is there an inarticulate yet underlying ‘sense’ value expressed in creativity?

Figure 1: Bruce Crossman, Melbourne (photo: Hyelim Kim); Linda Yim, Claire Edwardes & Anna Fraser, Sydney (photo/film: Simon Killalea)

I love the idea that creativity is something beyond ourselves yet felt, or sensed spiritually within our beings. Chinese ‘gunpowder’ artist Cai Guo-Qiang is very inspiring in the way he speaks of the materiality of art manifesting the design of earth—which for me is present with Yahweh Elohim’s energy—and the underlying presence of energy, or qi, of an intangible world that brings balance to all things. Japanese architect Hiroshi Naito with his ideas on Protoform—an inner artistic world—and the resonance of space it intersects with in Protoscape. Naito points to protoform as an underlying spiritual presence in life that speaks through creativity. He speaks of this quality as a special sense—a mysterious spark—that is ‘new’ but ignites the ‘old’ with a presence of creativity that is beautiful—something that speaks across time in architecture—but the artist cannot make it happen. This presence quality that speaks to the resonance of life, is something he sees that can only come from ‘heavenly revelation’; this process I intuitively identify with. I cannot make my best music ‘just come’ at my command; rather, it is a sensitivity that drops into my spirit at the oddest of times—after speaking in tongues and focussed laterally on my bush runs in Mulgoa Nature Reserve, Sydney—and then I can’t wait to get this sense of energy into the materiality of sound. My mind-being, body and spirit become a type of whir where I am pushed laterally aside and the felt emergence of life expressing becomes the focus. Creativity is for connection to others but its passing enlivens me as a musician with a type of piece/peace—it is as if something is born.

Figure 2: Mulgoa Nature Reserve, Glenmore Park (photos/film stills: Bruce Crossman)

The materiality of my music-theatre work Garden of Firedraws on a type of Chinese literati idea of qiyunenergy, which I see as parallel to Judeo-Christian energy which sustains life. In the opening measures of the work, the sound drifts with undampened crotales and vibraphone resonances built on pentatonic hints and colourations in the voice touching harmonic nodes and vibrato, in a type of way that recalls Cantonese and Kunquopera’s drifting subtle moments, within densities of nuanced colour over prepared-piano drones. The pitch sets are abstracted from the Kunqumelody ‘Zao Luopao’and permeate the structure as bones of a floating whisper-memory of Chinese opera. Paradoxically, in the middle, the music’s physical driving rhythmic nature seems to thrust forward propelled by Jingju-like elaboration of the Kunqumelodic line yet stands still through harmonic repetition of Kunquderived pitch-sets. In other words, the structural energies sit in drifting juxtapositions of stasis and static movement which work with French spectral approaches to sonority within a drifting sense of colour born of my Asian-Pacific locale—East Asian opera. Tang Xianzu’s Daoist influenced text, where natures energy pulses with the sensuality of life, is reflected the music’s concept of flow both in the Daoist sense and in the Judeo-Christian sense of spirit between sonority and timbrel colours connected to senses of energy within spiritual traditions.

Figure 3: Waldo Garrido (bass, percussion), Bruce Crossman (piano), & Evan Yanna Muru (narrator), Penrith Campus Recording Studio, Western Sydney University (photos: Bruce Crossman, Mitchell Hart)

The sense in my music, is something I feel in glossolalia—speaking in tongues—as part of my ritual of composition and in the unpredictable flow of my run through Mulgoa Nature reserve each morning, with its gently unpredictable throbbing of interlaced birdsongs, almost energy flow and creative breath expressions that speak to spiritual life.

©Bruce Crossman, 9 May 2020


Hidden Stillness: Film: Bruce Crossman, Mulgoa Nature Reserve, May 2020

Improvisations: Garrido-Crossman with Muru (Waldo Garrido [bass, percussion], Bruce Crossman [piano], & Evan Yanna Muru [narrator]); Sound engineer: Alexander Frendo; mixing engineer: Mitchell Hart; Date of session: 14 June 2019, Live Space, Recording Studio, Penrith Campus, Western Sydney University

Shy Like Blushing Flowers: ‘Garden of Fire’ (middle movement); Anna Fraser (mezzo-soprano), Claire Edwardes (percussion), Linda Yim (piano), Simon Killalea (video artist), Bruce Crossman (composer); Sound engineer: Ian Stevenson; Date of sessions: studio recording: 8th October 2017, Live Space, Recording Studio, Penrith Campus, Western Sydney University; film: Q Theatre in Penrith, The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre,  11th October 2017

© Bruce Crossman, Waldo Garrido, Bruce Crossman, Evan Yanna Muru, Sydney 2017/2019/2020