Phlogiston (2014)


  • Flute
  • Clarinet in B flat
  • Violins 1 & 2
  • Viola
  • Cello


c. 4 minutes

Creation Note

Phlogiston was written especially for the Kammerklang Ablaze concert, Friday 6 June 2014. It was inspired by the video/fire artwork Phlogiston (2009) by Keith Chidzey.

About the work

The title of this work refers to a 17th century scientific theory that was eventually disproven, which hypothesised that combustion was caused by an element called phlogiston. Despite being incorrect, there is something hopeful and poetic about the concept that reminds me of theories of aether. I have tried to capture a lightness, optimism, and a sense of space in the music.

Keith Chidzey’s video artwork depicts a Ruben’s Tube aflame, in mirror image. This gives the appearance of a horizontal band above and below which small flames flicker. I used this visual motif as my departure point in the music of Phlogiston, establishing a unison pitch, F, as a central band that all the instruments gradually enter on. They start to “flicker” to various notes above and below this point, and their gestures grow slowly from flickers into flourishes. Later, the flute and clarinet play a clear, slowly descending line over interlocking pizzicato strings that gradually reduce back down to flickers on the opening pitch F.

P.P. 2014



Score for loan, score and parts for sale from Australian Music Centre.


Live recording by Jane Duncan (flute), Peter Smith (clarinet), Victoria Jacono & Victor Wu (violins), John Fahy (viola), George Cayas (cello) now available to stream/purchase from Bandcamp on the Kammerklang album BETA.