Phlogiston (2014), for flute, clarinet and string quartet – was written at the request of Cameron Lam for the upcoming concert Ablaze, in June 2014. Celebrating 5 years of Kammerklang activity, the concert pairs each composer with a visual artist. One past work and one new work will be presented by each contributor: the composers are basing their new works on past artworks, and the artists are basing their new works on past compositions.I have been matched with artist Keith Chidzey. Chidzey is a sculptor/performance/installation artist who works with fire. I was very pleased to be offered his past Kammerklang fire/video artwork Phlogiston I to work with. This was originally shown at the first Kammerklang concert in conjunction with Cameron Lam’s The Colour of Woods (2009), for marimba. Chidzey’s visuals and Lam’s music are showcased in the following video:
Lam’s The Colour of Woods will be revisited at the upcoming Ablaze concert, matched with a new artwork. Meanwhile, I’ve based the music in my upcoming work Phlogiston very closely on the visual structure of Chidzey’s video artwork : the motif of a horizontal band from which flames emanate, above and below. All the instruments in my sextet gradually enter on a unison pitch. They start to “flicker” to various notes above and below this horizontal point, and their gestures gradually grow from flickers to flourishes.
Chidzey and I met recently to discuss our work. I was floored by the apparatus Chidzey used to create the visual in the Phlogiston series, the Ruben’s Tube: I hadn’t seen this use of sound to shape fire before, and like a mad scientist am now dreaming up ideas for Ruben’s tube music. The “Phlogiston” theme is a happy coincidence: I had stumbled upon this debunked scientific theory randomly a few years ago and filed it away as a theme to visit someday in my music.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Chidzey is inspired by my past work Electro Fractal Gamelan (2011), for vibraphone and electronics.
Kammerklang Ablaze is taking place Friday 6 June 2014 at the Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Also featuring music by Sam Gillespie, Lucy Kong, Cameron Lam and Chris Williams.
Full details here, including ticket presale and the Pozible campaign to support a CD recording: