|2007||Spiers Colin James, Memory: For Soprano and Orchestra, Australian Music Centre, Grosvenor Place, NSW (2007) [F1]|
In comparison with abstract instrumental music, musical works with text offer composers additional avenues for creating layers of meaning. Memory is one such piece that embodies a research component through its exploration of the relationship between textual and musical discourses. This relationship is at once literal (the text invoking a specific musical mood) and ironic (the music revealing hidden subtexts that are sometimes at odds with the surface imagery), a process that creates multiple viewpoints. While the theme of Rachael Jessups poem concerns her grandfathers and his familys memories, it also deals subtly with the loss of memory and the relationship that the living have with the dead through the act of remembrance.
Memory builds upon this multi-layered experience through the interaction between original and quoted musical material (all of it distorted in some way). This proceeds in a kaleidoscopic manner, a process that adds further depths of association, since the non-original inserts are sufficiently well known to create a shock of recognition that is intended to represent the process of remembering. The use of quotation also conflates various temporal periods, enriching the aesthetic experience of the work through the creation of multiple narrative streams that heighten the level of psychological engagement. Memory therefore operates simultaneously as both a dramatic and reflective scena, whose textual associations, supported by the mechanism of its complex interconnection of musical references, express simultaneously the tension between the immediacy of the poems powerful emotional imagery and its overwhelming elegiac mood.
|2003||Spiers Colin James, The Last Thoughts of Prokofiev, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney (2003) [F1]|
The research embodied in this work encompasses the interaction of the multiple concepts of narrative, quotation, representation, recontextualisation, hybridisation, parody, and irony, which firmly places it within the postmodern tradition. This heterogeneous mix creates a rich multilayered structure operating within the specific classical formal structure of the fantasy and fugue, and the broad genre of the piano solo itself a rich resource of associations and expectations for the informed listener that are used ultimately to blur the connection between abstract musical and programmatic meaning, and subvert temporal perception. Thus, while the musical surface follows a seemingly straightforward dialectical course, the above-mentioned qualities act anarchically to create multiple fragmented perspectives.
The works narrative elements involve a programmatic aspect (a depiction of the dying thoughts of Prokofiev) represented by transformed quotations from his unfinished tenth piano sonata, and a reinvented aspect (a reimagining of these thoughts) creating, through their placement alongside new material, a hybrid style. A hidden parallel narrative relies upon a representative element embodied in a simple cipher of pitch and alphabet equivalence that spells out musically the composers name, as well as facts drawn from his life. Because of this, the piece has a mythic quality, as these facts are recontextualised through the prism of the present composers style and musical techniques. The sense of irony this creates, while in keeping with Prokofievs life, is also an integral part of the work itself, which involves the seeming completion of an unfinished work that is actually a non completion.